It's hard to know which identity theft statistics to trust; one source claims nearly everyone will experience identity theft at some point in their lives, while another source states that it's a negligible issue. Even valid statistics can be manipulated to mean what the analyst wants them to mean.
Identity Theft Explained
Identity theft is what occurs when another person gets a hold of some of your personal information and then attempts to use it in a fraudulent manner. Identity theft victims may have a credit card account opened in their name by a thief or may discover that someone has actually assumed their identity, living a fraudulent life based on the victim's personal information.
What personal information do thieves use to steal someone's identity?
- Date of birth
- Mother's maiden name
- Social Security number
- Account numbers
Any identifying data for an individual can potentially be used by an identity thief, especially if the data is accompanied by additional information. For example, a person's name and address may not be enough for an identity thief but, when coupled with a checking account number, it can be plenty of information to steal an identity.
Know the Facts
Here are some facts and figures regarding identity theft from the Federal Trade Commission:
- More than 30 million consumers have experienced identity theft.
- Identity theft costs the nation an annual cumulative sum of approximately over $15 billion.
- Individual victims of identity theft average a loss of $500 as a result of the theft.
- More than thirty percent of identity fraud victims experience collection calls and other issues after their identity has been stolen.
Identity theft is obviously a prevalent issue for the Federal Trade Commission as well as for local law enforcement agencies.
Identity Theft Statistics Sources
Depending on what specific information you are looking for, it's usually not difficult to find identity theft statistics online from a wide variety of sources. Always consider the source and the motivation for presenting the statistics before accepting them as valid. For example, a website offering a costly credit protection program will more than likely present a vast array of alarmist statistics to prompt website visitors to purchase the program while a government website with no product to sell may present the statistics in a more straightforward manner.
This certainly is not to say that credit protection providers present false identity theft statistics, but instead that consumers must look beyond the wording of how the statistics are presented in order to get an accurate picture. Look past phrases that accompany identity theft statistics such as alarming, eye-opening, and shocking and instead examine the statistical data to get the information you are looking for.
There are plenty of reliable sources online for identity theft statistics:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a superb database of identity theft statistics as well as resources for victims.
- Every year the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) releases a comprehensive report detailing identity theft statistics, as well as statistics for other crimes investigated by the FBI.
- The United States Postal Service (USPS) provides statistics related to identity theft occurring as a result of stolen mail or other fraudulent uses of the mail.
- Local state, county, and city government websites may publish identity theft information as it pertains to the geographic area.
Reputable print magazines and newspapers may also provide accurate data with regards to identity theft.
Try to not put a great deal of confidence in secondhand statistics when it comes to identity theft. In other words, a personal blog that states I remember reading somewhere that an identity theft takes place every two seconds or something similar is not nearly as reliable as going directly to the source for the statistical information. Instead of relying on an impromptu memory of a statistic, get valid information by visiting the website of a government or law enforcement agency.