How Serious is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a serious crime– not only to you and your family, but to your finances, your emotional well being and your future. Find out just how far-reaching the damages are to individuals and businesses.

According to CBS News, in 2001, someone was a victim of identity theft every 79 seconds (, 1/25/2001). Each year hundreds of thousands of people are affected and dollars spent on the crime of identity theft. According to a Federal Trade Commission report between 1997 and 2005 over 3 million cases of fraud and identity theft were reported to over 1400 law enforcement agencies in 19 nations.
In 2005 alone, over 685,000 complaints were filed regarding fraud and identity theft and of those, 37% (255,565) were for identity theft. Reported monetary losses due to fraud (including identity theft) was over $680 million dollars, not including time and money spent by consumers to correct the problems incurred by identity theft.
Statistics for the years of 2003-2005 regarding identity theft:
-215,177 cases reported to the FTC for the 2003 calendar year
-246,847 cases reported to the FTC for the 2004 calendar year
-the majority of cases go unreported to Federal or local authorities
-the most common age group affected by identity theft is 18-29
-the top 10 metropolitan areas affected by identity theft include: Phoenix, AZ; Las Vegas, NV; Miami, FL; San Francisco, CA; and Dallas, TX (2005)
California had the most reported cases of identity theft with a total of approximately 45,000 cases of identity theft (2005)
In 2007 identity theft accounted for 36 percent of the 674,354 complaints received between January 1 and December 31, 2006, a little less than the previous year. This slight decrease may be due to more and more consumers becoming proactive in protecting their credit and taking appropriate steps to monitor their personal and financial information.
Facts every consumer should know: •Credit card fraud (26%) was the most common form of reported identity theft followed by phone or utilities fraud; (18%), bank fraud (17%), and employment fraud (12%). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were government documents/benefits fraud (9%) and loan fraud (5%). (Federal Trade Commission Complaint Data)
The most common method of retrieving information for use in identity theft is through lost or stolen wallets, theft of mail, dumpster diving, and information obtained through friends, family or consumer providers. In some cases an employee of the store or services provider you frequent obtains your information and uses it for fraud.
Synthetic identity theft is a more recent occurrence and very difficult to detect and correct. Synthetic identity theft occurs when bits and pieces of several people are used in order to create an entirely new identity. Information may come in the form of an address from one person, the social security number of another and employment or banking information from a third or fourth.
The Identity Theft Resource Center conducted a study of 173 victims of identity theft. In each case the victim’s damages included: an extended period of time to correct their credit status; 85% of the victims found out about the theft when they attempted to apply for a job or credit; victims are currently spending over 600 hours attempting to repair the damages to their credit and an amount of over $16,000 per victim; victims are finding out about the abuse of their identity and credit sooner, but it is taking longer to remove the information from their credit reports and many victims equate the emotional impact of identity theft with that of a violent crime – in some cases similar to a rape as the violation can be that personal.
How serious is identity theft? Hundreds of thousands of people are affected each year in the United States and millions worldwide. Millions of dollars are stolen from consumers and businesses. Time and effort; emotional, physical, psychological and financial are required to eventually make corrections to your credit and financial information. In some cases the damage is so far reaching as to be impossible to completely correct. If you are a victim of identity theft not only is your financial freedom taken away in the form of paying for damages as well as the resulting complications for obtaining future credit. You are also psychologically and emotionally damaged as you fear the unknown repercussions of the identity theft as well as the knowledge that your personal information has been violated. Identity theft is a far reaching crime and if you think you have been a victim, you must report it to the appropriate local, state and federal authorities including your State Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission. Take the first steps to protect yourself and your information; but if that fails, then make sure to take the most effective steps possible to keep it from continuing or happening to someone else. Report it.
Consumers can report ID theft to the FTC by calling the agency’s toll-free number: 877-438-4338.