10 Identity Theft Stats That Reflect The Growing Threat

Identity theft is a growing threat. In 2017 alone, over 16.5 million Americans fell victim to some form of ID theft. And although fraud losses are far below their 2012 and 2013, Javelin Strategy & Research finds losses have slowly increased over the past three years.

identity theft 2017

The problem runs deeper than just the number of victims and an increasing amount of financial losses. The following 10 ID theft stats and facts highlight why ID theft is a continuing threat for both US residents and others across the world.

1. Americans are more worried about cybercrime victimhood than most other crimes – Gallup

Gallup has been measuring Americans’ fear of being victims of crimes for decades. There are about 10 crimes that have been updated every year for the last 9 years. Some of those 10 crimes are:

  • Being mugged
  • Being a victim of a hate crime
  • Being robbed
  • Being assaulted by a co-worker
  • Being a victim of terrorism
  • Being attacked while driving.

Identity theft was added to the poll just this year. In that short amount of time, different forms of ID theft have rocketed up to the top spot for Americans’ crime fears. The top two, in fact, include:

“Having your personal, credit card or financial information stolen by computer hackers” – (71% of respondents in the October survey, 69% for the historical survey average.)

“Being the victim of identity theft” – (67% of respondents in the October survey, 68% for the historical survey average.)

Given the rising attention on ID theft due to more personal and financial information making its way online (and getting stolen in data breaches), it’s no wonder Americans are far more concerned about ID theft than anything else.

In the past, 47% of Americans was the highest number that has ever worried about being a victim of a crime (specifically for having their car broken into). But when identity theft was added to the poll a new record was made.

Additional takeaways from the Gallup poll:

  • While 66% of people worry about being a victim of ID theft, only 12% of households polled reported ID theft.
  • 75% of households polled with income less than $75,000 worry the most about ID theft.
  • 54% of households polled with income greater than $30,000 worry the least about ID theft.
  • ID thieves do not discriminate between the rich and the poor. 12% of households in both high and low-income brackets report ID theft.
  • Only 46% of people worry about being robbed while 16% (the highest percentage of any crime reported in the poll) of households report being robbed.

2. Americans are the most likely to fall victim to identity theft

According to research from Symantec, Americans fall prey to identity theft at higher rates than their peers around the world. More than 791 million identities were stolen from US residents in 2016. Given the US population, this also means some individuals were victims on multiple occasions. By comparison,  French citizens had 85 million identities stolen.  

3. Data breaches have left US residents more exposed

Data breaches are more common in the US, and more impacting. When Equifax was hacked in 2016, it left over 140 million Americans exposed to identity theft. The type of data exposed included Social Security Numbers, birthdays, addresses, and drivers license numbers.

According to Varonis, the US had the highest number of records stolen since 2013 than any other country in the world. Over 6.2 billion records were stolen from US residents during that time period. India had the second most number of records stolen at just over 394 million, a number that makes it a far distant second.

4.  Account takeovers are a greater threat than in the past

US residents should be concerned about an focus from cybercriminals on account takeovers. This security threat involves the hacking of accounts in order to take over the account completely. So instead of stealing an identity or convincing victims to give up private information, criminals can take ownership of an account, change the password and login information, and completely lock out the true owner.

Javelin Strategy & Research found account takeovers have increased over 61% since 2015, with 1.4 million incidents occurring. Thieves who take over accounts can cause extreme damage to an individual’s financial history and the case of social media or email takeovers, an individual’s reputation.

A key area that saw lots of new activity is account takeovers, which increased 61% over 2015, totaling 1.4 million incidents. Account takeovers occur when thieves gain to access someone’s accounts and change the contact and security information.

5. Age matters in ID theft

Identity theft is a concern for everyone, including children. The FTC reports that around 61 percent of ID theft complaints it receives are from those ages 30-59. A notable concern, however, is with children.

The 2018 Child Identity Fraud study from Javelin found that over 1 million children were ID theft victims in 2017. Many of those who were victimized had their identities stolen or misused by family members, and even parents. These children can end up starting adulthood with damaged credit scores and financial records, leading to difficulties early in life.

6. Small businesses are not helping the situation

The data on small businesses has been mixed. Some reports suggest small businesses are the biggest victim of ID theft, while others claim that that stat is not true. However, most data appears to point to the fact that cybercriminals are indeed focusing on small businesses.

Verizon found that 58% of businesses that fell prey to malware attacks on their systems were small businesses. Considering over 50 percent of small businesses don’t invest in cyber risk mitigation strategies, and most store personal information on their servers, small businesses continue to pose a notable data security risk for US consumers.

7. Criminals no longer need your physical card to steal your financial information

Prior to the internet and online shopping, most identity theft, and especially that involving credit cards, require physical theft of the items. Credit card skimming still exists in many contexts, as scammers have found crafty ways to put such devices in locations like ATMs and gas station pumps.

Nevertheless, “Card-not-present fraud” now exceeds any other type of credit card fraud. Over 80 percent of credit card fraud now falls into this category.

8. The EMV chip system may help but it may cause other problems

The US finally made the switch the EMV security chip system for credit cards in 2017. This system is designed to make it far more difficult for credit card thieves to skim the data from credit and debit cards. But according to FICO, there may be an unintended consequence: a rise in fraudulent credit card applications.

FICO estimates that there will be a 300 percent increase in fraudulent credit card applications as a result of the EMV system. FICO believes this will be the case as criminals look for ways to bypass the added security from the EMV system.

9. Cybercriminals still want your SSNs — perhaps now more than ever

With changes in credit card security and other security measures to help prevent ID theft, criminals are increasing their focus on Social Security Numbers. SSNs can be used to create fake accounts in a lot of different ways, from creating credit card accounts to bypassing bank security. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, thieves have a renewed focus on SSNs, an issue that is unlikely to abate any time soon.

10. Most US residents don’t take many of the necessary steps required to avoid identity theft

In many ways, identity theft is unavoidable in our modern, digital age. Even consumers who live “off the grid” and deal only in cash have their SSNs, date of birth, and address housed on government servers, which can and have been hacked in the past. The best thing any US consumer can do is to proactively take steps to reduce their risks while online. Most consumers, however, fail to take those necessary steps.

For example, over 75% of US consumers do not use virtual private networks, or VPNs to protect their internet WiFi connections. And 41% of US adults have shared a password with someone, increasing their risk of identity theft.  Perhaps even more troubling, over 40 percent of US adults say they use simple passwords over complex ones, and a similar number also use the same password across many different sites.

Bottom Line/Protection Tips

More than half of Americans worry about ID theft even though there are not very many victim. According to the Gallup poll, more people are robbed more often than their ID is stolen, but people worry less. So, perhaps people worry about being robbed less because they take preventative measures, locking their house, alarms, etc.

Take similar steps with your ID and you won’t have to worry so much! But first you should know that 90% of ID theft happens offline. Only 10% of ID theft happens on the internet! This means that you need to be vigilant in protecting your identity!

“At a time of year when packages are sitting on doorsteps and a mere address label or transaction record are enough to enable idenitity theft, consumers need to increase thier vigilance and take action to protect themselves,” said John Herr, CEO, EZShield.

Tips to avoid identity theft

  1. Don’t carry your SSN with you ever!
  2. Don’t use your SSN or DOB as passwords when dealing with businesses or call centers
  3. Be smart and aware of what you are doing on the internet.
  4. Don’t share all of your personal info with everyone on social networks. Only people that you know and trust should have access to your full birth date and address.
  5. Use unique passwords online and change them regularly. Also, don’t have them written down where people can see them.
  6. Keep your wallet and purse close to you and secure when you are out and about, don’t leave them sitting in plain view in your car!
  7. If it is feasible, place a freeze on your credit report.
  8. Check your credit report annually. You get one free every year from annualcreditreport.com.
  9. Shred statements with account numbers, like bank, credit cards, instead of just throwing them away.

For more on what you can do check out the Protection section of this site.

Author: Richard Patterson

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