Tuesday, February 12, 2019

19% Have Experienced Identity Theft

Millions of Americans have been the victims of identity theft, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Nearly one in five (19.4 percent) people aged 16 or older has been a victim at least once in his or her lifetime, and 10 percent have been a victim in the past year. These findings come from the 2016 Identity Theft Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Identity theft is not only common, but affects a growing share of the population. The 10 percent who were victims in 2016 is greater than the 7 percent measured in 2014. The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines identity theft as "fraud that is committed or attempted using a person's identifying information without authority." The three types of identity theft are the misuse of an existing credit card, bank, or other account; the opening of a new account in a person's name; and the misuse of personal information for fraudulent purposes—such as to get medical care.

The most common type of identity theft is misuse of an existing credit card account. In 2016, a substantial 4.3 percent of Americans aged 16 or older—or 11 million people—were the victims of credit card fraud. How did the victims discover the identity theft? Most were alerted to suspicious activity by a financial institution, the Bureau of Justice Statistics' reports. Only 7 percent of victims reported their identity theft to police, while 88 percent reported it to a credit card company or bank.

Actions taken by identity theft victims in the past 12 months
75.6% checked bank or credit statements
67.5% shredded documents with personal information
44.3% checked their credit report
36.8% changed passwords on financial accounts
16.2% used an identity-theft security program on a computer
11.7% purchased identity-theft insurance or credit monitoring service
4.7% purchased identity-theft protection

While the above list makes it look as though identity theft victims have learned their lesson and are getting serious about protecting their personal information, in fact the percentages who undertake these security enhancing activities are about the same for identity theft victims as they are for nonvictims.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Victims of Identity Theft, 2016

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