Every year millions of Americans lose their money and time due to identity theft. For the past decade, the number of identity theft cases has increased every year.
In 2010 the Federal Trade Commission received around 250,000 identity theft complaints. The number of reported cases during 2020 was approximately 1.3 million.
The widespread use of computers and smartphones has created even more opportunities for criminals, who continue to develop innovative ways of committing fraud.
Difference Between Identity Theft and Fraud
There’s a difference between identity theft and fraud that’s often unclear. Identity theft is when someone steals the identity of another person. They can steal different personal information such as name, birth date, Social Security Number, passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers, among other things.
If identity theft is stealing personal information, then identity fraud is the act of using the stolen data. This crime affects both the individuals whose identity has been stolen and the businesses where the stolen identity was used to make fraudulent transactions.
Many criminals use fake identities of people who don’t exist or use deceased people’s identities. Some examples of identity fraud include fake bank accounts, credit cards, loan applications, IDs, and passports.
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Identity Theft Statistics 2010-2020
According to the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Sentinel Network, these are the identity theft statistics of the past ten years. The statistics are based on the number of reports these agencies receive each year from consumers.
- 2010: 251,105 (17% of all reports)
- 2011: 279,156 (15%)
- 2012: 369,145 (17%)
- 2013: 290,102 (13%)
- 2014: 332,647 (13%)
- 2015: 490,220 (16%)
- 2016: 398,356 (13%)
- 2017: 370,916 (13%)
- 2018: 444,344 (14%)
- 2019: 650,523 (20%)
- 2020: 1,387,615 (29%)
Identity theft has been increasing in recent years, and it’s likely to continue this trend. Even though there have been some exceptions, almost every single year, there have been more identity theft cases than in the previous twelve months.
Identity Fraud Statistics 2010-2020
According to data from the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Sentinel Network, these are the identity fraud statistics of the past ten years. In 2020, identity fraud complaints represented 46% of all complaints received by the FTC.
- 2010: 250,854 (19% of all reports)
- 2011: 990,242 (55%)
- 2012: 1,112,627 (53%)
- 2013: 1,212,860 (56%)
- 2014: 1,579,740 (60%)
- 2015: 1,273,766 (41%)
- 2016: 1,294,094 (40%)
- 2017: 1,309,094 (45%)
- 2018: 1,503,787 (48%)
- 2019: 1,723,234 (52%)
- 2020: 2,184,531 (46%)
Looking at the data, we can also see how identity fraud has steadily increased every year in the last decade. It’s interesting to notice the dramatic increase from 2010 to 2011 when identity fraud represented 19% of all complaints to 55%. In 2010 there were around 250,000 cases of identity fraud, and in 2011 there were around 990,000.
One explanation for this change is that during economic crises, the amount of online crime tends to increase, and therefore the cases of identity fraud also increase. At that time, the U.S. was experiencing the effects of the 2008-2009 financial recession. During crises, businesses sometimes cut down on online security costs, which exposes them to hackers and online scammers.
In general, identity theft and fraud have increased a lot in just ten years. Identity theft numbers have multiplied by five, and identity fraud numbers have multiplied by more than eight. If the numbers keep growing at this rate, in 2031, there could be more than 15 million cases of identity fraud in the U.S.
Types of Identity Theft
The main types of identity theft are credit card fraud, miscellaneous identity theft, tax fraud, and smartphone account fraud. For many years, credit card fraud has been the top identity theft crime.
Miscellaneous identity theft includes different types of identity theft such as online shopping and payment account fraud, email and social media fraud, medical services, and insurance fraud, among others.
According to the FTC and the Consumer Sentinel Network data, these were the top 5 types of identity theft in 2019. As in most years, credit card fraud was the crime with the highest number of cases.
- Credit card (New accounts) – 246,763 cases, 45.7%
- Miscellaneous Identity theft – 166,875 cases, 30.9%
- Smartphone (New accounts) – 44,208 cases, 8.2%
- Business or personal loan – 43,919 cases, 8.1%
- Auto loan or lease – 38,561 cases, 7.1%
Smartphone account takeovers are a new kind of fraud that thieves are becoming better at. From 2017-2018, the number of smartphone account takeovers nearly doubled, going from 380,000 to 680,000.
At-Risk Age Groups
Identity theft criminals can target many different people, but children and seniors are usually at the most considerable risk. Children have new credit reports that are highly valuable to criminals, and seniors generally have a good amount of savings and investments.
Children’s Identity Theft Statistics
According to the FTC, in 2017, there were 13,852 cases of identity theft affecting children and teenagers under 19. This number represents 3.89% of all complaints during that year.
Children are given a Social Security Number at birth, and their credit reports remain clean until they go to college or get their first job. In addition, parents don’t usually bother checking the records for years, so criminals have more time to commit fraud.
Senior Identity Theft Statistics
The FTC reported in 2017 that 35% of fraud complaints and 18.9% of identity theft complaints affected seniors, people who are over the age of 60.
Hackers and fraudsters target seniors because they are usually more trusting and don’t know a lot about computers and websites. In addition, they tend to have more savings, and they don’t monitor their credit card or financial accounts very closely.
Identity Theft Statistics by State
It’s also interesting to look at identity theft statistics in terms of region or state. According to the reports filed by the FTC, California, Illinois, Texas, and Florida were the states in the US with the highest number of identity theft cases in 2020. These are the top 10 states with the highest number of identity theft complaints in 2020.
- California – 147,382
- Illinois – 135,038
- Texas – 134,788
- Florida – 101,367
- Georgia – 69,487
- New York – 67,202
- Washington – 54,247
- Massachusetts – 45,575
- Kansas – 43,211
- Pennsylvania – 33,886
The states with the lowest number of cases were Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont, and South Dakota. According to the Federal Trade Commission, all of them had under 1,000 identity theft cases in 2020. Since 2010, California has been the state with the highest number of cases, with Florida always close behind.
Financial and Emotional Impacts of Identity Theft
The effects of identity theft depend on the seriousness of the case. If you can change your passwords quickly or call your bank to block accounts and credit cards from further transactions, you might be able to limit the damage.
Many people don’t notice their personal information has been stolen until it’s too late. Therefore, the effects of identity theft tend to ripple beyond personal finances, affecting time, health, and relationships.
According to a 2016 survey from the Identity Theft Resource Center, these are some of the economic effects experienced by victims of identity theft. The survey used 300 individuals who experienced identity theft in 2015.
- 60% had to borrow money from their family
- 55% took time away from work
- 49% had to rely on family and friends for assistance
- 34% couldn’t take care of their family
- 32% couldn’t qualify for a home loan
- 32% had to use their savings for expenses
- 29% had to request government assistance
In addition to economic effects, many people experience difficult emotions during an identity theft case. People usually feel extremely hopeless and frustrated because they lose their financial resources, and at the same time, don’t know who committed the crime.
They also worry that the criminal still has their information and might target them again. According to the ITRC survey, these are some of the emotional effects identity theft victims experience:
- 81% felt frustrated and annoyed
- 69% feared for their financial safety
- 54% of respondents felt powerless or helpless
- 42% feared for the financial security of family members
- 58% experienced anger
Finally, victims of identity theft can experience various health-related effects, such as anxiety, stress, inability to concentrate, and sleep disturbances. These are some statistics of health reactions according to the ITRC survey.
- 74% experienced stress
- 60% experienced anxiety
- 39% lack of focus
- 29% stomach issues
- 41% sleep disturbances
- 10% inability to work due to physical symptoms
Statistics on Data Breaches
Data breaches are one of the significant sources of identity theft. When hackers breach the security system of a large company, they can potentially steal the personal information of millions of people.
They usually use this information to commit fraud or sell it on the dark web, where criminals can purchase credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, and other personal information.
The annual number of data breaches has been steadily increasing every year. Hackers are constantly developing new ways of outsmarting security systems and protocols. This is perhaps one of the most surprising identity theft statistics: in 2019, a business fell victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds.
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Yearly Data Breaches from 2010-2019
Using data from the FTC and the Consumer Sentinel Network, these data breaches happened every year from 2010-2019. In 2019, the number of data breaches more than doubled that of 2010:
- 2019: 1,473
- 2018: 1,257
- 2017: 1,632
- 2016: 1,091
- 2015: 780
- 2014: 783
- 2013: 614
- 2012: 471
- 2011: 421
- 2010: 662
The number of people affected by data breaches has also increased. There have been many variations in the last 3 years, but in general, data breaches are affecting more people each year. Hackers are constantly innovating, and we are bound to see more significant data breaches in the coming decades.
People Affected By Data Breaches from 2010-2019
Using data from the FTC and Consumer Sentinel Network, these are the number of people affected by data breaches every year since 2010. The number of people affected by data breaches in 2019 is approximately 10 times that of 2010.
- 2019: 164.7 million
- 2018: 471.2 million
- 2017: 198 million
- 2016: 36.5 million
- 2015: 169.1 million
- 2014: 85.6 million
- 2013: 92 million
- 2012: 17.3 million
- 2011: 22.9 million
- 2010: 16.2 million
Why is it Challenging to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?
It’s difficult to protect yourself from identity theft completely. Even if you take all the necessary precautions, a hacker might breach the systems of an important online company and steal your information.
For example, from 2007-2013, a Vietnamese hacker called Hieu Minh Ngo stole personal information from around 200 million Americans. He would obtain the information by hacking companies’ databases, and he would later sell it to other cybercriminals. Experian, one of the largest credit bureaus in the U.S., was one of the companies affected.
Know more about the company in this review on IDNotify Experian.
How to Safeguard Your Identity
Even though it’s hard to protect yourself completely, there are small precautions you can take. You should be careful with all your personal information and documents. Avoid throwing away financial or medical records in public spaces or trash cans. It’s always better to shred any important documents like your Social Security Number which might contain personal or financial information.
Also, be cautious of online scams and fraudsters. Stay on safe websites and be wary of downloading files or opening unmarked emails. Public Wi-Fi is a common network criminals use to hack people’s devices. When using public Wi-Fi, avoid entering bank details or personal information.
If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, it’s crucial you act fast and take steps to reduce the financial impact of identity theft. Report any lost or stolen credit cards to the authorities and put a freeze on your accounts, use antivirus software, and don’t use public Wi-Fi.
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