According to USA’s Bureau of Justice statistics report released yesterday,
An estimated 17.6 million persons, or 7% of all U.S. residents age 16 or older, were victims of one or more incidents of identity theft in 2014…Among identity theft victims, existing bank (38%) or credit card (42%) accounts were the most common types of misused information.
The report, entitled Victims of Identity Theft, is comprehensive, providing a glut of information about information theft in the US during 2014.
For clarity’s sake, the report defines identity theft as the attempted or successful misuse of an existing account, such as a debit or credit card account, the misuse of personal information to open a new account or the misuse of personal information for other fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining government benefits or providing false information to police during a crime or traffic stop.
Comparing with the previous report, the number of victims increased from 6.7% in 2012 to 7.0% in 2014, but the cumulative financial loss decreased slightly from 4.3 billion USD to 4.2 billion USD.
Banks and other financial institutions are responsible for informing 45% of the estimated 17.6 million – just shy of 8 million – US-based identity theft victims. Another 18% – or 3 million – only discovered they were targeted upon noticing fraudulent charges when they checked bank statements.
Sadly, this stat did not surprise me: only 8% of identity theft victims reported the incident to the authorities. The reasons given by the remaining 92% on why they didn’t report the crime varies, but the most surprising is that the victim didn’t think the incident was important enough to notify the authorities. More worryingly, 1 in 5 said they did not know how to report the incident to the police.
But all is not lost. Overall, 85% took some action to prevent identity theft, says the report. Here are the top three actions that people took to reduce the risk of identity theft:
- Checked bank or credit statements
- Shredded or destroyed documents with personal information
- Check credit report
- Changed passwords on financial accounts
Having read the entirety of the report, my main takeaway is as follows: authorities must consider making it much easier for victims to report a crime. Not only that, but they should also encourage us all to do so. This approach would surely help both the authorities and the security industry better understand the scale and depth of the problem. Additionally, this information would help technology providers to allocate resource more efficiently to the most prevalent and damaging IT security threats.