Identity theft is unfortunately a pervasive problem in not only the United States but the entire world. While the increasing digitization of the world has brought about many day-to-day benefits, it has also provided more opportunities for hackers and fraudsters to steal personal data for their financial gain.
Billions of personal records have been stolen through major data breaches over the last decade and, unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated the issue of data theft due to more and more people working remotely and transferring information via the web.
Scammers are also becoming much more sophisticated, and technology and the pandemic have made it easier for them to commit . Fraudsters can acquire your personal information through email, text, or social media phishing scams, and many use such tactics to file fraudulent government benefits claims. Moreover, credit card numbers illegally acquired via major data breaches typically end up on the dark web, where they can be purchased for as little as $0.50.
With that in mind, here are five noteworthy identity theft statistics you should know to help protect your personal information. It is important for all of us to have in place a comprehensive identity theft protection and restoration plan, which can help you return to pre-breach status through the services of licensed professional investigators. These plans are inexpensive, and cover all 6 major types of ID theft-financial or credit-related; driver’s license; medical, child; Social Security number; and character, or “criminal” ID theft.
Identity Theft and Fraud Increased in 2021
While there are many different reporting agencies for identity theft and fraud, most agree that these crimes have been steadily rising. The FBI’s Internet Crime Report 2021, for instance, showed a record 847,376 complaints of cybercrime, up 7 percent from the year prior.
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network received more than 5.7 million consumer complaints in 2021, up from 4.9 million complaints in 2020. Nearly half of those were fraud complaints, while 25 percent were for identity theft.
Government benefits fraud accounted for more than 385,000 of the 1.43 million identity theft complaints. New credit card account fraud (363,092) and business/personal loans (105,711) were among the other most commonly reported crimes.
Across the US, California led all states in identity theft reports with 391,517 but ranked 23rd based on reports per 100,000 population. The District of Columbia led that category with 1,701 reports per 100,000 population.
Reported Losses Almost Doubled in 2020
Not only are instances of identity theft becoming more common, but victims are also suffering greater losses. The FTC reported the total value of identity theft losses in 2021 was $5.8 billion, a 45 percent increase over 2020 when losses reached $3.3 billion. Reported losses were below $2 billion before the pandemic in 2019. However, even $5.8 billion is a low estimate considering many identity theft victims are hesitant to come forward.
Javelin Strategy & Research, for instance, reported that Americans lost roughly $56 billion due to identity fraud in 2021. It estimated that $43 billion of those losses were through robocalls and sophisticated phishing emails. In addition, the firm found that about 18 million Americans were victims of scams involving digital payment platforms.
11 Billion Records Were Stolen from 2008 to 2020
A significant portion of identity theft and fraud is at no fault of the individual victim. Financial institutions, retailers, schools, and other organizations that hold personal information have been increasingly targeted by cybercriminals. According to the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council, there have been more than 12,000 reported data breaches in the US from 2005 to 2020. More than 11 billion records have been stolen in this time, resulting in an estimated $1.66 trillion in losses, according to an IBM study.
Considering not all companies and organizations are entirely forthright in their reporting of data breaches, these losses could likely be even higher. In August 2022, DoorDash confirmed to TechCrunch that cybercriminals gained access to the names, phone numbers, email and delivery addresses, and partial payment card information of its users, but declined to specify how many users were impacted, when the attack occurred, or identity the third-party vendor that caused the breach.
People in Their 30s Are the Most Likely Victims
Of the more than 1.17 million identity theft reports made to the FTC in 2021, 308,910 were made by people between the ages of 30 and 39. Overall, 26.4 percent of the total 2.8 million fraud reports with the FTC were filed by people in this age group.
People between the ages of 40 and 49 were the second-most likely victims of identity theft with 266,269 reports. Perhaps surprisingly, people between the ages of 70 and 79 filed 45,068 identity theft reports. The total number of fraud reports increased 27 percent year-over-year from 2020 to 2021 and may increase in the coming years due to the FTC’s new online reporting platform.
Credit Card Fraud Is the Most Common Type of Identity Theft
Except for 2020 and 2021, when government benefits claims for pandemic relief were rampant, credit card fraud has historically been the most common form of identity theft. The FTC received 271,938 reports of credit card fraud in 2019 compared to just 23,242 reports of fraudulent government benefit claims. In 2021, the FTC received 389,737 reports of credit card fraud and 395,948 reports of government documents or benefits fraud.