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Identity Theft and Fraud Information

Facts and statistics regarding identity theft and fraud

  • Fraud is a broad area of crime encompassing everything from forging a signature on a check to filing a false insurance claim. Identity theft is a specific form of fraud that occurs when an imposter obtains key pieces of personal information about a consumer—such as a Social Security or a driver’s license number—and uses that information to impersonate the consumer by obtaining credit, merchandise or services in the name of the victim. (Source: "Identifying Your Role," ACA International Compliance Dept., Collector magazine, November 2006.)
  • The terms "identity fraud" and "identity theft" are often used interchangeably, but there are important distinctions between the two. Identity fraud occurs when someone takes illegally-obtained personal information to use for their own financial gain.  For example, if someone steals your credit card and makes purchases, you have been the victim of identity fraud. Conversely, identity theft occurs when personal information is accessed by someone else without permission.  For example, if somone found your Social Security number on a document in your trash and applied for a new credit card in your name and used it, you have been the victim of identity theft. (Sources: "Identifying Your Role," ACA International Compliance Dept., Collector magazine, November 2006; "2009 Identity Fraud Survey Report, Consumer Version," Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2009.)
  • A 2013 Javelin Strategy and Research report found that identity fraud incidents increased by more than one million victims, resulting in the theft of nearly $21 billion, which is the highest amount since 2009. According to the report, 12.6 million people were victims of identity fraud in the United States during the past year, which is one victim every 3 seconds. (Source: "2013 Identity Fraud Report," Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2013.)
  • Nearly one in four data breach letter recipients became a victim of identity fraud. Breaches involving Social Security numbers tend to be the most damaging. Organizations will alert their customers if their information is compromised and send a letter. While receiving a letter does not always mean fraud has occurred, the survey found 25 percent of people were victims in 2012. Credit card information is the most popular item revealed in a data breach. Personal information such as online banking user names and passwords was compromised in 10 percent of fraud incidents and 16 percent of incidents included Social Security numbers. (Source: "2013 Identity Fraud Report," Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2013.)
  • Incidents of identity fraud increased in 2012 for the second year in a row, affecting 5.26 percent of adults in the United States. New account fraud and account takeover fraud increased significantly in 2012. (Source: "2013 Identity Fraud Report," Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2013.)
  • The mean consumer out-of-pocket cost due to identity fraud increased from $354 in 2011 to $365 in 2012. The majority of fraud costs are to financial institutions, merchants and other businesses. (Source: "2013 Identity Fraud Report," Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2013.)
  • Consumer information was misused for an average of 48 days in 2012, which is down from 55 days in 2011 and 95 days in 2010. The resolution rate for cases is 92 percent, which is a record high of the past seven years. (Source: "2013 Identity Fraud Report," Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2013.)
  • The Federal Trade Commission reported receiving more than 360,000 identity theft complaints from consumers, making it the top complaint for the 13th consecutive year. (Source: "FTC Releases Top 10 Complaint Categories for 2012," February 2013.)
  • In 2012, more than 1.5 million consumers were victims of fraud by someone they knew. Stolen information in these cases most often includes name, Social Security number, address and checking account numbers. (Source: "2013 Identity Fraud Report," Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2013.) 
  • The most common form of reported identity theft was government documents/benefits fraud (46 percent) in 2012, followed
    by credit card fraud (13 percent), phone or utilities fraud (10 percent), and bank fraud (6 percent). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were employment-related fraud (5 percent) and loan fraud (2 percent.) (Source: Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book January-December 2012 for the Federal Trade Commission, February 2013.)
  • More than half of identity theft victims who were able to resolve any associated problems did so in a day or less; among victims who had personal information used for fraudulent purposes, 29 percent spent a month or more resolving problems.(Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics: Victims of Identity Theft, 2012.)
  • Direct and indirect losses from identity theft totaled $24.7 billion in 2012. (Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics: Victims of Identity Theft, 2012.)
  • In 2012, the unauthorized misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account was the most common type of identity theft,
    experienced by 15.3 million persons age 16 or older (6 percent of all persons.) The majority of victims experienced
    the fraudulent use of their credit cards (7.7 million or 3 percent of all persons) or bank accounts (7.5 million or 3 percent of all persons). Another 1.7 million victims (0.7% of all persons) experienced other types of existing account theft, such as misuse or attempted misuse of an existing telephone, online, or insurance account. (Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics: Victims of Identity Theft, 2012.)
  • The way victims discovered that their identifying information was misused varied by the type of identity theft. Among victims who experienced the unauthorized use of an existing account, 45 percent discovered the identity theft when a financial institution contacted them about suspicious activity on their account. In comparison, 15 percent of victims who experienced the misuse of personal information to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes discovered the incident when a financial institution contacted them. (Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics: Victims of Identity Theft, 2012.)

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