Identity Theft: Everything You Need to Know

ID Theft can be stopped. These comprehensive resources and consumer education materials will show you how not to be a victim, and what to do if you are.

Most ID Theft Complaints in 2010

Top 10 States by Complaints

RankStateComplaints per 100,000 PeopleTotal Complaints Received Population
01Florida114.821,581
02Arizona102.56,549
03California102.438,148
04Georgia97.19,404
05Texas96.124,158
06Nevada89.72,423
07New Mexico86.11,773
08New York85.116,494
09Maryland82.94,784
10Illinois80.610,345
Note: Per 100,000 unit of population are based on the 2010 U.S. Census. Source: Data Book (January-December 2010), Federal Trade Commission.

Most Id Theft Complaints Submitted In 2010

Top 10 metropolitan areas – Nationwide Rankings

No.Victims' Metropolitian AreasComplaints per 100,000 populationTotal Complaints Received Population
01Dunn, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area805740
02Greeley, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area 1,742715
03Mount Vermon-Anacortes, WA Metroplitan Statistical Area 790679
04Boulder, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area 1,957674
05Thomasville-Lexington, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area 951608
06Allegan, Ml Micropolitan Statistical Area 684607
07Punta Gorda, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area 853558
08Jefferson City, MO Metropolitan Statistical Area 811557
09Santa Fe, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area 788551
10Fort Collins- Loveland, Co Metropolitan Statistical Area1,560543
Note: 1 Per 100,000 unit of population estimated are based on the 2010 U.S. Census. Source: Consumer Sentinel Network Data book (January – Decemeber 2010, Federal Trade Commission)

Signs of Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission, US Department of Justice, US News, NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, PrivacyMatters and FightIdentityTheft offer multiple resources on this topic.

Specific signs of identity theft include:

How ID Theft occurs

Identity thieves steal information through both the Internet and the physical world. Some tactics they use are:

Skimming

  • An electronic device designed to copy and store information is used to steal the data from magnetic strips found in personal items like:
  • Debit or credit cards
  • Driver's license
  • Passports

Spyware

"Old fashioned" stealing

Phishing

Types of Identity Theft

ID Theft Data Breach Records in 2013 By Industry

IndustryExposed # of Records% of Total Records
Banking/Credit/Financial268.003.6
Business2,825,25937.5
Educational343,3624.6
Government/Military1,513,16520.3
Medical and Health Care2,566,62134.1
Total7,543,496100
Source: Identity Threat Resource Center.

Reduction of ID Theft Between 2003 and 2007 in the U.S.

Category Highlight20032007
Total # of Victims10.1 Million8.4 Million
Total Fraud Amount$55.7 Billion$49.3 Billion
Average Amount per Fraud$6,278$5,720
Resolution Time/Case40 hour25 hour
Source: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Miscellaneous ID Theft Complaints by Sub Type

Per year, 2008 through 2010

ID Theft Sub-type200820092010
Uncertain10.3%9%8.6%
Miscellaneous8.8%8.3%7.6%
Internet/Email1.1%1.2%1.9%
Evading the Law1.4%1.4%1.5%
Medical1.3%1.3%1.3%
Apt or House Rented0.7%0.7%0.7%
Insurance0.3%0.3%0.3%
Child Support0.2%0.2%0.2%
Bankruptcy0.1%0.1%0.1%
Magazines0.2%0.2%0.1%
Property Rental Fraud0.2%0.1%0.1%
Securities/Investments0.2%0.1%0.1%
Total24%23%22%
Note: Percentages are based on the total number of Federal Trade Commission identify theft complaints for each calendar year. 2008=314521 2009=278356, 2010=250854. Note that 12% of identity theft complaints include more than one type of identity theft in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Source: Consumer Sentinal Network Data Book (January-December 2010), Federal Trade Commission.

Tax related:

Thieves use Social Security numbers to obtain employment or steal a victim's tax refund.

  • Social Security fraud
  • Fraudulent employment
  • Stolen tax refund

Account related:

Thieves open new or misuse current bank accounts.

  • Bank accounts hacked
  • Fraudulent withdrawals
  • Credit cards stolen
  • Pin numbers changed

Id Theft Complaints Per Bank Sector & Sub-Type

(2008 – 2010) Fraud of Banking channel by Percentage

ID Theft Banking Sub-TypeCY-2008CY-2009CY-2010
Electronic Fund Raiser4.6%4.4%4.8%
New Accounts3.0%3.1%3.2%
Existing Accounts3.4%3.1%2.8%
Total 11%10%10%
ID Theft Loan Sub-TypeCY-2008CY-2009CY-2010
Auto Loan/Lease1.8%1.8%1.7%
Business/Personal/Student Loan1.3%1.2%1.0%
Real Estate Loan1.2%1.1%1.0%
Total 4%4%4%
ID Theft Credit Card Sub-TypeCY-2008CY-2009CY-2010
New Accounts12.3%10.2%9.0%
Existing Accounts8.0%7.0%6.7%
Total20%17%15%
Note: Percentages are based on the total number of Federal Trade Commission identity theft complaints for each calendar year. CY 2008 = 314,521; CY 2009 278,356 and CY 2010 = 250,854. 12% of id theft complaints include more than one type of identity theft in CY 2009 and 2010, and 13% in 2008. 1. Includes fraud involving checking and savings accounts and electronic fund transfers. Source: Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (January – December 2010, Federal Trade Commission)

Phone and utilities fraud:

Thieves open accounts in the victim's name.

  • Cell phone accounts
  • Gas, electric accounts
  • Cable & internet services

Child and Medical ID Theft in US in 2012

Child ID Theft Statistics in 2012

ID Theft StatisticsPercentages
Social Security Number Theft or Misuse545.00
ID Fraud688.00
ID Fraud by Family and Friends534.00
Victimized Children (1 Year or More)667.00
Used To Get Healthcare Services877.00
Used To Get Pharmaceuticals1,086.00
Used To Get Government Benefits1,203.00
Used To Bill the Health Plan1,283.00
Credit Report Accessed1,051.00
Don't Know776.00
Percentages based on total # of reported complaints. Sources: 2012 Child Indentity Fraud Report, Identity Theft Assistance Center & 3rd Annual Survey on Medical Identity Theft by Ponemon Institute LLC.

Child-related:

Thief uses child's identity fraudulently.

  • Student loans
  • Child's SSN

Health Insurance and Medical fraud:

Thieves use victim's insurance information to obtain medical care.

  • Appointments
  • Procedures
  • Hospital Visits

Government Documents Fraud:

Thief obtains and uses or sells victim's federally issued document.

  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Driver's licenses

Cyberspace Identity Theft:

Fraudulent activity on online accounts.

  • Email account hacked
  • Account user added (Ebay, Amazon, etc.)
  • Username & Passwords changed

Other:

Miscellaneous types of identity theft.

  • Life Insurance fraud
  • Automobile Insurance fraud
  • Employment fraud

How To Take Action In Case Of ID Theft

ID Theft Complaints per Bank Sector & Sub-type

2008 – 2012

ID Theft SubtypeCY – 2008CY – 2009CY – 2010
Electronic Fund Transfer4.6%4.4%4.8%
New Accounts3.0%3.1%3.2%
Existing Accounts3.4%3.1%2.8%
Banking Subtype Total11%10%10%
Auto Loan/Lease1.8%1.8%1.7%
Business/Personal/Student Loan1.3%1.2%1.0%
Real Estate Loan1.2%1.1%1.0%
Loan Subtype Total4%4%4%
New Accounts12.3%10.2%9.0%
Existing Accounts8.0%7.0%6.7%
Credit Card Subtype Total20%17%15%
Note: Percentages are based on the total number of Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Complaints for each calendar year. CY 2008: 314,521; CY 2009: 278,356; CY 2010: 250,854. 12% of complaints include more than one type of identity theft in CY 2009 and 2010; 13% in CY 2008. 1. Includes fraud checking and savings accounts and electronic fund transfers. Source: Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (January – December 2010, Federal Trade Commission)

Theft Complaints Per Government Sector & Sub Type

Per year, 2008 through 2010

Sub Type Of Government Sector200820092010
Tax or wage related fraud12.3%12.7%15.5%
Government benefits applied for/received1.4%1.7%1.8%
Other government documents issued/forged1.3%1.1%0.9%
Driver's license forged0.9%0.9%0.9%
Total15%16%19%
Note: Percentages are based on the total number of Federal Trade Commission identify theft complaints for each calendar year. 2008=314, 2009=278,356, 2010=250,854. Note that 12% of identity theft complaints include more than one type of identity theft in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Source: Consumer Sentinal Network Data Book (January-December 2010), Federal Trade Commission.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government-run consumer protection agency working throughout the U.S. to detect and prevent identity theft, fraud, and other deceptive business activity. The FTC official website is a go-to for ID theft related information, including the immediate steps to take when you suspect you've been a victim of ID theft:

While doing all these things, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that consumers keep track of their progress with carefully logged phone calls, certified stubs on mail, and official documentation.

Specific Resources and Helpful Guides from the FTC: 

Step By Step Guidelines to Resolving Specific ID Theft Issues  

How To Avoid Identity Theft

Theft quiz:

Take or play one of the many online quizzes and games about identity theft to brush up on your knowledge and potentially learn some valuable information.

Preventative measures to reduce the risk of ID theft:

Protect your personal information by doing the following:

Protect your computer from cyberspace identity thieves:

Federal resources, organizations and laws

Bureau of Justice

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCS) reports on different types of identity theft incidents along with statistics, data, trends, and findings from 2004 to 2010:

Various Identity Theft Statistics

Victims By Race, Age and Area (2005 to 2010)

YearWhiteAfrican AmericanHispanicAmerican Indian/Alaska NativeAsian/Hawaiian/Pacific IslanderTwo or More Races
2005143,40854,13147,00311,12427,39214,416
2010187,30558,73958,46711,49740,78321,308
% increase30.618.5124.393.3548.8947.81
Year12-1718-2425-3435-4950-6465+
2005n/a43,18971,979103,44691,92757,982
20107,14651,63585,664117,240109,96068,681
% increasen/a19.5619.0113.3319.6218.45
YearUrbanSuburbanRural
200597,978126,72061,846
2010124,631158,52456,935
% increase27.2925.10-7.94
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Identity Theft in the United States

(2005 to 2010) # Victims by Household Income

Year<$7,500$7,500 to 14,999$14,999 to 24,999$25,000 to 34,999$35,000 to 49,999$50,000 to 74,999$75,000+Unknown
2005240,400315,300455,900547,500773,3001,059,5002,050,300982,600
2010238,600334,500470,500616,900884,7001,152,1002,835,3002,039,400
% increase-0.756.093.2012.6814.418.7438.29107.55
Source: Crime Data Brief November 2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Identity Theft in the United States 2005 compared to 2010

Financial loss by type of ID theft (in percentages)

Theft Category$0$1-99$100-499$500-999$1000+Unknown
Credit Card 200513.5%18.5%25.6%10.4%18.7%12.7%
Credit Card 201021.1%18.4%25.7%12.8%15.5%6.5%
Other Account 200517.2%16%27.4%12.1%16.9%10.5%
Other Account 201021%21.6%28.1%13.6%13.1%2.7%
Personal Information 200536.1%4.8%12.1%5.8%16.7%24.4%
Personal Information 201050.8%5.2%7.2%8.7%17.2%10.9%
Multiple Types 200516%8%22.5%12.9%28.1%12.6%
Multiple Types 201020.4%11.1%24.8%14.5%23.8%5.4%
Note: Percentages in each category may not sum to 100% due to rounding. Dollar amounts for 2005 were adjusted for 2010 inflation using the Consumer Price Index.

Department of the Treasury

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's role as stated on the official website is to act as the steward of the U.S. economic and financial systems. As such, they can act as a resource when victims' identities are stolen and finances are affected.

Department of Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice's role is to uphold and enforce the law, and to ensure public safety against domestic threats. It also acts as a leader in preventing and controlling crime. By the very nature of its definition, the Dept. of Justice is here to serve the U.S. victims of the crime of identity theft. See below for the U.S. Dept. of Justice's resource pages:

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

The FDIC is a Congress-designed independent agency responsible for upholding and promoting U.S. citizen confidence in our financial system. Identity theft is their responsibility when it comes to breaks and holes in the financial system of a victim. See below for the FDIC's resources:

Social Security Administration

As issuers of United States Social Security cards to citizens, it is the responsibility of the Social Security Administration to provide hotline numbers, Social Security card replacement, information on reclaiming identity, and other advice to victims of identity theft who have had their Social Security cards stolen or hacked. See below for helpful resources from the SSA:

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

It is the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's job to protect U.S. citizens' mail from criminal activity and other types of misuse, and so are also intricately involved with fighting back against identity theft.

United States Federal Laws Serving Citizens to Prevent, Detect, and Recover from Identity Theft

Federal Identity Theft Laws:

Federal Credit Laws:

Federal False Identification Laws:

Federal Privacy Laws:

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