Identity Theft on the Rise: Survey

Identity theft has become so commonplace that the odds are pretty high that you’ve been a victim or you know someone who has. Those odds continue to increase, according to a survey released today by Javelin Strategy & Research. It found that the number of identity fraud cases rose by 12 percent in the U.S. last year, to 11.1 million. And the amount of money potentially affected by these frauds, Javelin says, grew by 12.5 percent, to $54 billion. On the bright side, however, Javelin’s survey also showed that more consumers are taking action when identity fraud occurs (i.e., filing police reports) and are also doing more to protect their data in the first place.

Javelin’s research also showed that there have been other improvements over previous years, including: The average time it takes to resolve a fraud dropped last year by 30 percent, to 21 hours; the number of reported arrests in fraud cases doubled; the number of prosecutions of fraud tripled and the number of successful convictions also doubled. The Javelin survey is in its seventh year, and is co-sponsored by Fiserv, Intersections, Wells Fargo & Co. and ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center.

Javelin says that the survey is the nation’s longest-running study of identity fraud, with more than 29,000 U.S. respondents over the past seven years. Last year, the company did telephone interviews with 5,000 U.S. adults to identify and track the methods that fraudsters used, the impact of fraud on Americans and how these findings can help consumers most effectively avoid becoming victims of fraud. James Van Dyke, president and founder of Javelin, said in a statement:

The good news is consumers are getting more aggressive in monitoring, detecting and preventing fraud with the help of technology and partnerships with financial institutions, government agencies and resolution services.

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • Identity fraud that resulted from criminals opening new accounts with stolen information increased in 2009. The number of fraudulent new credit card accounts increased to 39 percent of all identity fraud victims, up from 33 percent in 2008. New online accounts opened fraudulently more than doubled over the previous year, and the number of new email payment accounts increased 12 percent. This year for the first time, the survey asked about new mobile phone account fraud and 29 percent of new accounts fraud victims reported new mobile phone accounts were fraudulently opened.
  • Identification most likely to be compromised in a data breach continues to be full name (63 percent) and physical address (37 percent). With a year-over-year increase of 4 percent, health insurance information is increasingly targeted. The percentage of Social Security numbers compromised decreased to 32 percent from 38 percent in 2008.
  • 75 percent of existing card fraud incidents came from credit cards, an increase of 12 percent over 2008. In contrast, existing debit card fraud incidents decreased 2 percent and represented 33 percent of total existing card fraud in 2009.
  • Millennials (consumers aged 18-24 years old) take nearly twice as many days to detect fraud, compared to other age groups, and thus are fraud victims for longer periods of time. Millennials were found to be the less likely to monitor accounts regularly and the least likely group to take advantage of monitoring programs offered by financial institutions. However, Millennials were the most likely group to take action such as switching primary banks or switching forms of payment.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user clappstar

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