Last Updated: Friday, 16 October 2020
Recently published statistics on identity theft indicate that nearly 7% of American households claimed a victim in 2010. Furthermore, one study indicates the average amount of money obtained by the thief was nearly $2,200.
In this article, we're going to summarize some of the identity theft information gathered via surveys by the Federal Trade Commission as well as the Bureau of Justice Statistics. We're also going to review some of the complaint data gathered by a wide variety of organizations throughout the United States. In taking this approach, we're presenting statistics based on both questions asked of the public through surveys, and information reported by the public.
Identity Theft Surveys
All four reports referenced in this document were based on information gathered in the years 2005 through 2010. This data was subsequently analyzed and summarized into reports published in January 2006, November 2007 (two reports), and November 2011. Specifically, this includes:
- Special Report - Identity Theft 2005, as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (November 2007)
- Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data, published by the Federal Trade Commission (January 2006)
- The 2006 Identity Theft Survey Report, conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (November 2007)
- Identity Theft Reported by Households, 2005-2010, as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (November 2011)
- Victims of Identity Theft, 2012, as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (December 2013)
Overall Findings of Reports
We're going to start by summarizing some of the high-level statistics found in these government reports. Each of the four subsequent sections of this document will discuss some of the more detailed findings that are unique to each report.
Two of these surveys were based on a statistically-representative sample of the United States population. This means the findings of these surveys can be reasonably extrapolated to the entire U.S. population. Some of the more compelling information gathered in these surveys include:
- In 2012, 16.6 million people age 16 and older were victims of identity theft. This represents 7 percent of this population.
- In 2010, 7.0% of households in the United States, or about 8.6 million households, had at least one member age 12 or older that was a victim of identity theft.
- The median value of goods and services obtained was $500, while 10% of the population experienced a theft of $6,000 or more.
- Credit card fraud was the single most common form of identity theft reported by victims (26% of reported cases).
- Discovering missing money from an account or noticing unfamiliar charges was the most common way adults recognized they had been victims (30.8% of cases).
- Individuals age 18 to 29 led the way in the reporting of identity theft (29% of cases).
Victims of Identity Theft (2012)
In the first half of 2012, the Identity Theft Supplement (ITC) collected data from persons who were victims of one or more attempted or successful incidents of identity theft. The information contained in this report is a subset of that found in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Findings from this survey include:
- The majority of the incidents (85%) involved fraudulent use of information found in an existing account such as credit card or bank account.
- About 14% of identity theft victims experienced a loss of $1 or more; about half of these victims suffered losses of less than $100.
- Direct and indirect losses from identity theft totaled $24.7 billion in 2012.
2005 - 2010 Identity Theft in Households
This information is based on the National Crime Victimization Survey, which focuses on the changes in the nature of identity theft. The database consists of 46,000 crimes reported and not reported to the police. Findings from this survey include:
- Unauthorized Use of Credit Cards: increased sharply from about 3.6 million in 2005 to 5.5 million in 2010.
- Direct Losses: in 2010, households experienced $13.3 billion in direct losses from identity theft, with an average loss of $2,200.
- No Loss: roughly 24% of households victimized by identity theft had no financial loss in 2010, which is higher than the 19% found in 2005.
- Misuse of Personal Information: Households lost an average of $13,200 when personal information was misused to open a new account.
2006 Survey Data
The survey methodology used in this report included calling households using randomly generated telephone numbers. Those telephone numbers were then divided into eight geographic regions, so that a statistically-representative sample was achieved for the entire United States.
The results of this survey were based on nearly 5,000 completed telephone interviews. Findings of this survey include:
- Prevalence: 3.7% of the survey participants discovered they were victims of identity theft in 2005. This translates into approximately 8.3 million U.S. adults.
- 1.5% of survey participants, which translates into 3.3 million U.S. adults, reported the misuse of information involved one or more of their existing accounts such as checking, savings, or telephone.
- 1.4% of survey participants, which translates into 3.2 million U.S. adults, reported the misuse of their information was limited to one or more of their existing credit cards.
- 0.8% of survey participants, which translates into 1.8 million U.S. adults, reported their personal information was used to open new accounts or to engage in fraud.
- Financial Value: the median value of goods and services obtained by identity thieves was $500. Ten percent of victims reported the loss of $6,000 or more and 5% reported a loss of $13,000 or more.
During the calendar year 2005, the FTC's Consumer Sentinel database recorded over 685,000 cases of consumer fraud and identity theft. This database is populated by over 150 organizations, and is made available to law enforcement officials throughout the nation. Information extracted from that database indicates:
- Types of Theft: credit card fraud (26%) was the single most common form of identity theft reported, followed by phone or utilities (18%), bank (17%), and employment fraud (12%).
- Credit Card Fraud: nearly 58% of the reported cases involved the opening of new accounts, while 42% involved existing accounts.
- Age of Victims: under 18 (5%), 18 to 29 (29%), 30 to 39 (24%), 40 to 49 (20%), 50 to 59 (13%) and over 60 years of age (9%).
- Rates by State: the highest rate of identity theft include Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Washington, New York, Georgia, and Illinois. While the states with the lowest reported rate of identity theft include North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Iowa, Maine, West Virginia, Montana, Kentucky, Wyoming, and New Hampshire.
2005 Survey Data
This fourth and final survey was assembled from telephone interviews conducted in the year 2005. Sample size was sufficient to insure commentary that included terms such as "higher" or "lower" passed a statistical test such that a 95% confidence level was achieved.
- Income Levels of Victims: approximately 10% of households with incomes of $75,000 or more experienced identity theft, which was roughly twice the rate when compared to households earning less than $50,000.
- Discovery: the most common means of identifying identity theft were:
- Noticed missing money or unfamiliar charges on account (30.8%)
- Contacted about late or unpaid bills (20.6%)
- Banking problems (13.1%)
- Noticed a credit report error (5.6%)
- Noticed missing credit card / checkbook (5.3%)
- Account blocked by issuer (4.3%)
- Other ways (29.6%)
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