Have you ever looked into the definition of identity?
Psychology describes it as a sense of being oneself. All the traits that make you feel who you are.
So why should you care about that?
Well, imagine if tomorrow you find out someone else claims they’re you.
It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but there’s a very mundane explanation for it.
The shocking statement could very well mean your identity has been stolen – and you’re now part of the identity theft statistics.
It will be ok.
I’ll give you some tips on what you should do to prevent that from ever happening.
But first some of the numbers.
Scarily Big Identity Theft Statistics (Editor’s Choice):
- 2017 notes a record high number of victims of identity fraud – 16.7 million
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported $905 million in fraud losses in 2017, a 21.6% increase from 2016
- The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reports on 1,579 data breaches, which have exposed nearly 179 million records in 2017
- The FTC’s stats report on 2.7 million identity theft complaints in 2017
- 60 million Americans were affected by identity theft in 2018
- 1 in 15 people became victims of identity fraud
- 31.7% of breach victims experienced ID theft, stats indicate
- By 2022, it is expected that shopping fraud will cost consumers around $20 billion per year
Ok, so what are we dealing with here?
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission, usually for financial gain.
1. Of all 3 million reported frauds to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2018, stats reveal identity theft accounted for 14.85%.
Identity theft statistics for 2019 say the most common types of frauds are:
- Credit card fraud
- Employment or tax-related fraud
- Phone and utilities fraud
- Bank fraud
- Loan or lease fraud
- Governmental documentation or benefits fraud
And the one category that affects most significantly consumers is:
2. Credit card frauds accounted for more than 167,000 reports in 2018.
According to statistics, it’s the most common fraud among most age ranges. The only exception here are those who are 19 years old and under. They usually don’t have a good credit score yet, and thus no credit card.
Teenagers are most affected by Employment or tax-related fraud. For 2018, FTC reported 7,860 cases of identity theft and that makes:
3. 49,7% of total fraud reports of the 19 and under age group is for Employment and tax-related identity theft.
Compared to the other groups where this type of crime makes no more than 11.7% of reports, we can say children and young adults are target number one for such fraudsters.
Statistics show child identity theft is common because children have clean records.
4. Consumer Sentinel Network reported that the cost of identity theft in 2018 was $1.4 billion.
Younger people are usually the preferred victims of fraud, with 43% between 20 and 29 years reporting they’ve lost money to fraud schemes. Senior citizens (70-79 years) have accounted for 15% of all cases, according to identity theft statistics.
Citizens between 30-39 are the ones most significantly affected by this trend. They’re the group of people reporting most of the incidents that fraud statistics record.
5. For 2018, 30-39 year-olds reported 26,1% or 107,367 of the ID theft stats cases.
The same group is the one affected by the largest increase of identity theft (and fraud) rates, according to reports, submitted to FTC – 33.4% from 2017 to 2018.
6. TFC announced 444,602 reported cases of identity theft in 2018, making it the second-highest year in terms of identity theft reports on record.
Identity theft has been steadily growing since the beginning of the century, with 86,250 cases reported in 2001.
7. In 2015, ID theft cases reached a record high of 490,112 – according to stats provided by the TFC.
Since then, the report counts have been fluctuating, with their lowest point at 371,034 in 2017. We’re yet to see what 2019 will show, but we can assume numbers will not be dropping significantly.
How many people are victims of identity theft?
According to Javelin Strategy, 2017 was a record high year for identity theft with 16.7 million victims in the US alone.
2018 doesn’t seem to be a better year as in their User Risk Report, Proofpoint shows that 33% of users in the US have experienced identity theft in 2018.
And that is more than double the global rate!
One reason for the high rate, as explained by LifeLock identity theft statistics, is data breaches.
Data Breaches- 21st Century Plague
A data breach means someone has gained access to your personal information. Names, emails, bank details, and social security numbers, among others – they can all be exposed to and exploited by unauthorized parties.
Data breaches happen most often when an organization (financial, government or other) is hacked.
But individuals could also be targetted.
According to Norton, a single data breach could expose enough personal information to make any of us target for frauds.
8. For the first 6 months of 2019, nearly 3,800 publicly disclosed data breaches were registered.
Statista also weighs in on data breaches and identity thefts statistics, reporting that:
9. 1,244 data breaches occurred in 2018, exposing 446.5 million records.
An enormous amount of data in the wrong hands.
Sectors Most Affected by Data Breaches
Healthcare and Finance contribute the most to the swelling number of cybercrime statistics.
Healthcare leads the statistics with a record:
10. 2,550 data breaches and 189 million compromised healthcare records – all registered in the last decade.
(Source: HIPAA Journal)
Medical identity theft stats show that in recent years, Healthcare has been facing an exponential growth of data breaches. For contrast, in 2015, there were over 5 million exposed records and in 2018 there were over 13 million.
Healthcare proves to be the most vulnerable sector.
11. In 2017, the average cost per breach in the financial sector was $336 million.
(Source: Identity Theft Resource Center)
One way experts on bank fraud can explain the statistics is by looking at the types of information financial institutions need to secure.
What’s more, hackers are especially drawn to finding new and sophisticated ways to breach bank systems.
And that can mean these types of businesses could end up paying around $825,000 on average per malware attack.
The Geography of Identity Thefts
Studies find that data breaches in the US are significantly more expensive.
12. In 2019, a data breach in the US costs $8.19 million on average.
(Source: Digital Guardian)
We see an increase in the overall cost as in 2018 the number was $7.91 million.
Data breach in the States was an ever-increasing issue in the past 14 years.
In 2006, it accounted for $3.54 million of loss. Compared with today’s situation, that’s an increase of 130%.
Identity theft statistics by state show that Michigan is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints.
Florida, California, Maryland, and Nevada are also where most complaints were made in 2017, according to the FTC identity theft statistics.
Although data breaches predominantly affect the US, the rest of the world also suffers the consequences of this modern epidemic.
The United Kingdom accounts for 22% of all data breaches incidents in the past year. It’s followed very close by Canada with 21%. Australia is the third most affected country with 11% of data breaches on record for 2018.
Those are the 3 countries that lead the worldwide identity theft statistics but of course, crimes like these happen everywhere.
And yet people don’t seem to take very seriously the chances of becoming a victim to identity theft.
13. 43% of surveyed in the U.S. say they shop online over public WiFi.
Not only that, but a great number admit to not being careful with the private information they share while on a public network.
14. 87% of consumers have left their personal data exposed when using public WiFi.
The high number is primarily due to users not being aware that public WiFi could present a danger for their personal data.
15. 60% feel their personal information is safe when using public WiFi.
Given that, the majority of people don’t find it necessary to use Virtual Private Network (VPN), even if it’s one of the best ways to protect information.
16. 75% of consumers don’t use VPN.
What’s more, people don’t shy away from sharing details about their online accounts.
17. 33% of the interviewed users in the U.S. have shared their account names and passwords with others.
The even more concerning fact is that identity theft statistics show:
18. 31% of the surveyed small businesses are not taking proactive measures to mitigate cyber risk.
And that often results in those businesses closing down.
By now it’s obvious that in an increasingly digital society, we all have some data online that is vulnerable. And considering identity theft numbers, that’s less than ideal.
But how should we deal with identity theft?
Break Glass in Case of Identity Theft
When faced with the suspicion someone has stolen your personal information, there are several things you should do.
1. Submit a report about the theft to the FTC or call their hotline;
2. Look at placing a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports;
The fraud alert, also known as an “initial security alert,” will show on your credit report. When a lender or other company checks it, they will be alerted that you’re potentially a victim of identity theft.
A security freeze will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit report. Your credit report will only be accessible by unfreezing the account.
The next important step to take is:
3. Notify your insurer and medical provider in case you become victim to medical ID theft.
Get copies of medical files and consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
How to Avoid Joining the Identity Theft Statistics
According to an ITCR study:
19. It usually takes around 3 months for most people to discover they’ve become victims of identity theft.
However, according to the same source:
20. 16% of people don’t find out about their identity being stolen even after 3 years.
It never hurts to be vigilant with the information you have online and check it regularly.
Consistency is a keyword when it comes to safeguarding data.
A few good steps to take to prevent yourself from joining the identity theft stats are:
1. Keep your personal information safe.
Store documents in places where they’ll be out of harm’s reach. It’s preferable to lock them away.
When disposing of sensitive materials (credit cards applications, insurance forms, medical statements, etc.), it’s best to shred or tear them.
2. Secure your online personal data.
The simplest thing would be to not put your personal data in any social media profiles or files on your computer.
When browsing websites and shopping online, make sure you do it through a secure page. This means the URL should begin with https (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure).
3. Limit what’s in your wallet.
Not hard to imagine the more personal information you have in your wallet the easier it will be for fraudsters to take advantage of you if you happen to get it stolen or lose it.
It goes without saying your social security card is one of those documents you don’t need to carry around everywhere. Keep that one secure and give it out only when absolutely necessary.
4. Have passwords and revise them regularly.
Think outside the box when choosing passwords online. Avoid having the same password for all your online accounts and change them regularly.
Numbers like 123456789 are very clearly not a safe key to use. Neither is “password123.”
Family members’ names are also not recommended. If you want to avoid becoming part of the statistics on identity theft, that is.
5. Be Informed.
Data breaches happen all the time. So it’s recommended that you get informed which organizations have fallen victim to recent identity thefts.
Make sure you find out what kind of information has been leaked, especially if you’re their client.
6. Don’t disclose personal information over the phone.
An obvious one – you should not share information about yourself over the phone. That is, unless you’re the one initiating the conversation for that particular reason.
7. Protect Your Computer.
When you have your PC protected against malicious attacks, you can safely focus on doing your work. Make sure you:
- Use a firewall and a secure browser.
- Don’t download files from strangers or unsecured websites.
- Maintain sufficient virus protection.
Another recommendation by security specialists to follow is to avoid automatic log-ins.
Being consistent in monitoring your accounts and reviewing your personal information is the best way to stay on top of potential threats.
Identity thefts can make us feel very vulnerable – after all, our identity gives us a feeling of consistency. The sense that we’re the same person as we were yesterday and the day before.
It gathers memories, values, beliefs, and goals to give you the idea of a self. But our identity is also the key that unlocks a life worth of savings, our financial security.
And as we move toward a prevalently digital society we need to secure our online identities and escape the identity theft statistics.
- HIPPA Journal
- IDENTITY THEFT RESOURCE CENTER
- Digital Guardian