Did you know that an identity theft occurs almost every two seconds in America? Simply put, every single individual as well as organization is vulnerable when it comes to identity theft. The stats from a variety of sources establish that it’s not only the most frequent, but also the most prevalent and costly crime in the U.S.
Although the thieves are continuing to develop new, sophisticated approaches, the basic methods for identity theft are still pretty much the same: from stealing wallets and mail, to extracting personal information from customer call centers. However, with the influx of smart mobile devices and new technologies, the types of accounts stolen are no more limited to credit cards, debit cards, and bank accounts. Now smartphones, cable TV service, government benefits, and many other services are also a lucrative target for identity thieves.
Let’s take a quick look at some key identity theft stats from the past few years.
The Federal Trade Commission maintains the Consumer Sentinel Database which has the record of more than 10 million consumer fraud and identity theft complaints between 2010 and 2014. In 2014 alone, more than 2.5 million complaints were filed.
There are 30 different types of complaints that you can file, and for the 15th consecutive year, identity theft was the highest reported complaint among all the categories accounting for 332,646 complaints, and 13% of the total complaints in 2014.
According to a report: Victims of Identity Theft, 2014 published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015, about 17.6 million people aged 16 and over were victims of identity theft during 2014. That’s almost 7% of the entire U.S. population, and includes all races, genders and ages above 16.
Here are some key findings from the report:
The table below compares the number of victims in 2012 versus 2014.
|Characteristic of victims||2012||2014|
|Total||16.6 million||17.7 million|
|Men||7.9 million||8.3 million|
|Women||8.7 million||9.2 million|
|White||12.4 million||13.3 million|
|Black/African American||1.5 million||1.4 million|
|Hispanic/Latino||1.5 million||1.8 million|
|Other||0.8 million||0.9 million|
|18-24||1.5 million||1.3 million|
|25-34||3.3 million||3.6 million|
|35-49||4.9 million||5 million|
|50-64||4.7 million||5 million|
|65+||2.1 million||2.6 million|
|Total household income|
|$24,999 or less||1.9 million||1.8 million|
|$25,000 - 49,999||2.8 million||3 million|
|$50,000 - 74,999||2.6 million||2.5 million|
|75,000 or more||6.2 million||6.7 million|
|Unknown||3 million||3.5 million|
There is a wide variety of ways in which your personal information can be misused. Comparing different types of identity theft between 2008 and 2014, we don’t see much of a difference except for employment-related fraud which has gone down and government documents and benefits fraud, which seems to have tremendously increased over the years.
|Type of identity theft||2008||2014|
|Government documents or benefits fraud||16.6 million||17.7 million|
|Credit card fraud||20%||17.4%|
|Phone or utilities fraud||13%||12.5%|
|Bank fraud (2)||11%||8.2%|
|Attempted identity theft||6%||4.8%|
|Other identity theft||24%||21.8%|
According to Federal Trade Commission, different states experience different volume of identity theft attacks. These are the five states with most identity theft complaints per 100,000 people:
|State||Total complaints per 100,000 people||Identity theft complaints per 100,000 people||Total number of complaints||Total number of identity theft complaints||Average amount paid|
Some other states with a high identity theft rate per 100,000 people are Michigan, California, Nevada, Arizona, Maryland, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, New York, Mississippi, New Jersey and Ohio.
These stats mean that there are millions of Americans getting their checking account wiped out, credit history ruined, and even job and other possessions snatched, every single year. FBI has termed identity theft as “the fastest growing crime” and that “the threat is more pervasive and the scams more sophisticated than ever, including new online elements”.
And what it means for you is possibility of considerable monetary loss. In other words, this monetary toll inflicted by identity theft could prove to be extremely crippling, and emotional trauma can be as severe as any of the most violent offenses. So, to minimize the threat of identity theft, it’s your duty to take all possible measures such as keeping a close eye on your credit report, protecting sensitive info such as PIN numbers and SSN, and securing your computer and smartphones from viruses and trojans.