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The Definitive Guide To Understanding Identity Theft

Most ID Theft Complaints in 2010

Top 10 States by Complaints

Rank State Complaints per 100,000 People Total Complaints Received Population
01 Florida 114.8 21,581
02 Arizona 102.5 6,549
03 California 102.4 38,148
04 Georgia 97.1 9,404
05 Texas 96.1 24,158
06 Nevada 89.7 2,423
07 New Mexico 86.1 1,773
08 New York 85.1 16,494
09 Maryland 82.9 4,784
10 Illinois 80.6 10,345
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 Areas Complaints per 100,000 population Total Complaints Received Population
01 Dunn, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area 805 740
02 Greeley, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area 1,742 715
03 Mount Vermon-Anacortes, WA Metroplitan Statistical Area 790 679
04 Boulder, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area 1,957 674
05 Thomasville-Lexington, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area 951 608
06 Allegan, Ml Micropolitan Statistical Area 684 607
07 Punta Gorda, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area 853 558
08 Jefferson City, MO Metropolitan Statistical Area 811 557
09 Santa Fe, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area 788 551
10 Fort Collins- Loveland, Co Metropolitan Statistical Area 1,560 543
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

Industry Exposed # of Records % of Total Records
Banking/Credit/Financial 268.00 3.6
Business 2,825,259 37.5
Educational 343,362 4.6
Government/Military 1,513,165 20.3
Medical and Health Care 2,566,621 34.1
Total 7,543,496 100
Source: Identity Threat Resource Center.

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

Category Highlight 2003 2007
Total # of Victims 10.1 Million 8.4 Million
Total Fraud Amount $55.7 Billion $49.3 Billion
Average Amount per Fraud $6,278 $5,720
Resolution Time/Case 40 hour 25 hour
Source: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Miscellaneous ID Theft Complaints by Sub Type

Per year, 2008 through 2010

ID Theft Sub-type 2008 2009 2010
Uncertain 10.3% 9% 8.6%
Miscellaneous 8.8% 8.3% 7.6%
Internet/Email 1.1% 1.2% 1.9%
Evading the Law 1.4% 1.4% 1.5%
Medical 1.3% 1.3% 1.3%
Apt or House Rented 0.7% 0.7% 0.7%
Insurance 0.3% 0.3% 0.3%
Child Support 0.2% 0.2% 0.2%
Bankruptcy 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
Magazines 0.2% 0.2% 0.1%
Property Rental Fraud 0.2% 0.1% 0.1%
Securities/Investments 0.2% 0.1% 0.1%
Total 24% 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-Type CY-2008 CY-2009 CY-2010
Electronic Fund Raiser 4.6% 4.4% 4.8%
New Accounts 3.0% 3.1% 3.2%
Existing Accounts 3.4% 3.1% 2.8%
Total 11% 10% 10%
ID Theft Loan Sub-Type CY-2008 CY-2009 CY-2010
Auto Loan/Lease 1.8% 1.8% 1.7%
Business/Personal/Student Loan 1.3% 1.2% 1.0%
Real Estate Loan 1.2% 1.1% 1.0%
Total 4% 4% 4%
ID Theft Credit Card Sub-Type CY-2008 CY-2009 CY-2010
New Accounts 12.3% 10.2% 9.0%
Existing Accounts 8.0% 7.0% 6.7%
Total 20% 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 Statistics Percentages
Social Security Number Theft or Misuse 545.00
ID Fraud 688.00
ID Fraud by Family and Friends 534.00
Victimized Children (1 Year or More) 667.00
Used To Get Healthcare Services 877.00
Used To Get Pharmaceuticals 1,086.00
Used To Get Government Benefits 1,203.00
Used To Bill the Health Plan 1,283.00
Credit Report Accessed 1,051.00
Don't Know 776.00
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 Subtype CY - 2008 CY - 2009 CY - 2010
Electronic Fund Transfer 4.6% 4.4% 4.8%
New Accounts 3.0% 3.1% 3.2%
Existing Accounts 3.4% 3.1% 2.8%
Banking Subtype Total 11% 10% 10%
Auto Loan/Lease 1.8% 1.8% 1.7%
Business/Personal/Student Loan 1.3% 1.2% 1.0%
Real Estate Loan 1.2% 1.1% 1.0%
Loan Subtype Total 4% 4% 4%
New Accounts 12.3% 10.2% 9.0%
Existing Accounts 8.0% 7.0% 6.7%
Credit Card Subtype Total 20% 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 Sector 2008 2009 2010
Tax or wage related fraud 12.3% 12.7% 15.5%
Government benefits applied for/received 1.4% 1.7% 1.8%
Other government documents issued/forged 1.3% 1.1% 0.9%
Driver's license forged 0.9% 0.9% 0.9%
Total 15% 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)

Year White African American Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native Asian/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Two or More Races
2005 143,408 54,131 47,003 11,124 27,392 14,416
2010 187,305 58,739 58,467 11,497 40,783 21,308
% increase 30.61 8.51 24.39 3.35 48.89 47.81
Year 12-17 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+
2005 n/a 43,189 71,979 103,446 91,927 57,982
2010 7,146 51,635 85,664 117,240 109,960 68,681
% increase n/a 19.56 19.01 13.33 19.62 18.45
Year Urban Suburban Rural
2005 97,978 126,720 61,846
2010 124,631 158,524 56,935
% increase 27.29 25.10 -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
2005 240,400 315,300 455,900 547,500 773,300 1,059,500 2,050,300 982,600
2010 238,600 334,500 470,500 616,900 884,700 1,152,100 2,835,300 2,039,400
% increase -0.75 6.09 3.20 12.68 14.41 8.74 38.29 107.55
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 2005 13.5% 18.5% 25.6% 10.4% 18.7% 12.7%
Credit Card 2010 21.1% 18.4% 25.7% 12.8% 15.5% 6.5%
Other Account 2005 17.2% 16% 27.4% 12.1% 16.9% 10.5%
Other Account 2010 21% 21.6% 28.1% 13.6% 13.1% 2.7%
Personal Information 2005 36.1% 4.8% 12.1% 5.8% 16.7% 24.4%
Personal Information 2010 50.8% 5.2% 7.2% 8.7% 17.2% 10.9%
Multiple Types 2005 16% 8% 22.5% 12.9% 28.1% 12.6%
Multiple Types 2010 20.4% 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: