|About 14 percent of the U.S. population (34.2 million people) reported experiencing some form of identity theft in their lifetime. (Image credit: 93428671 Copyright zimmytws, 2014 Used under license from Shutterstock.com) |
Nearly seven percent of the U.S. population age 16 or older (16.6 million people) experienced some form of identity theft in 2012, according to a new report from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
Financial losses attributable to identity theft reached $24.7 billion, based on data from the 2012 Identity Theft Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Roughly 70,000 U.S. residents were surveyed about their experiences with identity theft in the past 12 months.
BJS 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.”
The BJS report found that of the 16,580,500 reported incidents of identity theft in 2012:
- 15.3 million involved the misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account (i.e. debit or credit card account)
- 1.1 million reported having their personal information stolen and used to open a new account
- 833,600 had their personal information misused in other fraudulent ways
Most victims discovered incidents of identity theft after being contacted about suspicious activity with a financial account. Two-thirds of victims had no idea how their personal information was compromised; 9 out of 10 did not know the identity of the offender.
Only 9 percent of identity theft victims reported their crimes to police, while 90 percent contacted a bank or other financial institution in an attempt to resolve the issue. Most survey respondents said they did not contact police because they were able to handle the issue some other way (58 percent) or because they had not lost any money (29 percent).
The Identity Theft Supplement found that identity thieves most often targeted victims (6.2 million people) from households reporting annual incomes of $75,000 or more.
Another key finding: About 14 percent of the U.S. population (34.2 million people) reported experiencing some form of identity theft in their lifetime. Furthermore, eight percent still have unresolved problems as a result of identity theft.
People who did not fall victim to identity theft in 2012 took important steps to safeguard their financial and personal information, including checking their credit report (37 percent) and changing their passwords on financial accounts (27%). Other protection measures taken by non-victims involved using identity theft security programs on their computers (16 percent); purchasing identity theft insurance or credit monitoring (5 percent); and paying for identity theft protection (3 percent).
Front page/thumbnail image: 146615930 Copyright Karen roach, 2014 Used under license from Shutterstock.com