Identity theft is defined as the process of using someone else’s personal information for your own personal gain. The Javelin Strategy & Research Center has been studying identity theft closely since 2004. Each year, they release their findings. Their 2009 study reveals that:
Identity theft is on the rise, affecting almost 10 million victims in 2008 (a 22% increase from 2007)
Victims are spending less money out of pocket to correct the damage from ID theft. The mean cost per victim is $500, and most victims pay nothing due to zero-liability fraud protection programs offered by their financial institutions.
71% of fraud happens within a week of stealing a victim’s personal data.
Low-tech methods for stealing personal information are still the most popular for identity thieves. Stolen wallets and physical documents accounted for 43% of all identity theft, while online methods accounted for only 11%.
ID theft can happen to anyone, and it can come in all shapes and sizes. For example, your credit card digits could be stolen and used to make online purchases; a thief could impersonate you to open up a loan in your name; a felon could commit a crime and pretend to be you when caught; or someone could use your personal information to apply for a job.
Here’s a brief overview and description of each type of identity theft, based on Federal Trade Commission complaint data:
Credit Card fraud (26%): Credit card fraud can occur when someone acquires your credit card number and uses it to make a purchase.
Utilities fraud (18%): Utilities are opened using the name of a child or someone who does not live at the residence. Parents desperate for water, gas, and electricity will use their child’s clean credit report to be approved for utilities.
Bank fraud (17%): There are many forms of bank fraud, including check theft, changing the amount on a check, and ATM pass code theft.
Employment fraud (12%): Employment fraud occurs when someone without a valid Social Security number borrows someone else’s to obtain a job.
Loan fraud (5%): Loan fraud occurs when someone applies for a loan in your name. This can occur even if the Social Security number does not match the name exactly.
Government fraud (9%): This type of fraud includes tax, Social Security, and driver license fraud.
For more identity theft statistics, visit our Official Identity Theft Statistics page, which we update frequently with the latest facts and figures about this fast-growing crime.