An interesting article was published in today's LA Times on a federally-funded identity-theft study performed by the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection (CIMIP) located at Utica College in New York. The study says that contrary to popular belief, about half of identity theft is performed by strangers, not family or acquaintances, as reported by others like Javelin Strategy & Research and ID Analytics. Both have strongly suggested (here and here) that on-line id theft was overblown, and that consumers shouldn't be worried about it.
Javelin said that the CIMIP study didn't contradict their work (which is funded by Visa USA, Wells Fargo & Co., and others with a vested interest in promoting on-line transactions) because the CIMIP study focused "on high-dollar cases" which would "more likely to involve businesses, strangers and technology" than their broad base of consumer victims reached through telephone surveys.
Anyway, I think it is going to take some time sorting out who is at risk by whom, but regardless, on-line or off, it isn't getting any safer out there.