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The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is a great resource for statistics and information related to identity theft prevention and recovery. Among other educational and support activities, ITRC conducts studies that reflect occurrences and the ever-growing challenges associated with tracking and controlling residual effects of identity theft crimes.
Despite consistent identity theft data being compiled in ITRC studies, results gathered regarding the time it takes from discovery to recovery varies widely from one study to the next. For example, a 2004 study noted that ID theft victims spent an average of 330 hours to recover from the crime, but this average is deceiving. When taking a closer look at specific answers, the hours reported ranged from 3 hours to 5,840.
Why such a wide discrepancy? Potential damages from a single lost credit card are minimal compared to a stolen Social Security number used to open new accounts in the victim's name repeatedly for years. So, clearly the severity of the crime affects the length of time it takes to undo the damage -- damage that could sometimes take years to repair.
For complete results of ITRC victim impact studies, along with prevention advice, scam alerts, and victim support information, visit IDtheftcenter.org.
Offline identity fraud steadily creeps upward every year, but ID theft online is raging out of control. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) keeps close tabs on Internet identity theft statistics by monitoring phishing activity. In April of 2007, the number of phishing web sites detected weighed in at 55,643 – an increase of nearly 35,000 from the previous month's totals. Compare that to the report of 4,564 in July of 2005, and it's easy to see that phishing schemes are a growing business.
One of the reasons for the sharp rise in occurrences is that phishers started incorporating tactics that allows them to put a large number of phish URL addresses on the same domain. With the average length of time for a phishing site to remain online at less than four days, the same-domain tactic allows phishers to cast a wider net to capture user information.
While statistics for the success rate of phishing scams is a bit unclear, ranging from a Gartner report quoting 3 percent and a recent study conducted by the University of Indiana claiming results of 14 percent, there is no argument that the schemes are successful, especially when you consider that a successful legitimate direct mail campaign only averages a 2 percent response rate.
With so much information available about phishing scams, why do people keep falling victim to them? Here's a clue: In a 2006 survey conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center, one of the multiple choice questions asked was, “What is phishing?” More than 50 percent of respondents answered, “I don't know,” and only one-fourth of respondents answered correctly.
No matter how much or how little time you spend online, educating yourself about ID theft and fraud scams is your best line of defense.
Results from an updated survey co-released by Javelin Strategy and Research and the Better Business Bureau (2006 Identity Fraud Survey Report), indicated that the average amount of time identity theft victims spend reporting credit and identity fraud issues is 40 hours. That's up from 28 hours in 2005.
Why does it take so much time? Part of the reason is that it is often difficult to determine the depth and breadth of the damage, and conducting the identity theft research needed to thoroughly discover the total extent of the fraudulent acts can be a daunting task. Add to this uncertainty the fact that, on average, it takes as long as 12 months for victims to realize they are victims, and the time-intensive work to unravel the unknowns suddenly begins to make sense. And, to add insult to injury, typically, the discovery comes at critical financial times, like when applying for a new home loan or to purchase a new car.
Since reporting and recovering from ID theft doesn't happen with one phone call, victims end up making call after call, filing report after report, following up every conversation in writing, and keeping meticulous records of names and contact information of everyone they speak with and every action taken.
Depending on the extent of the identity theft crime, the procedures for filing reports can be exhaustive. For a comprehensive list of who to contact and how, use the guide and instructions found through the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse online.
Most reports and studies about identity theft focus on the costs and consequences for individuals. However, the costs associated with ID theft crimes for businesses easily climb to millions of dollars. Here are just a couple significant facts and identity theft statistics from a 2006 study conducted by the Ponemon Institute:
· U.S. companies average identity theft-related costs of $182 per compromised record. While that figure averaged $660,000 per company in notification expenses and indirect costs, the total estimate, including lost business, tops $2.5 million. This staggering amount also includes costs and fees associated with legal expenses, fines, investigation, auditing, class action litigation, public relations damage control, and setting up monitoring, remediation practices, and a dedicated customer support phone number.
· The most common source of compromised data occurs from lost or stolen laptops, accounting for 45 percent of all incidents, followed by 29 percent attributed to outsourcing companies and third party partners. Twenty-six percent of data leaks occur from lost or stolen backup files. Contrary to the widely publicized occurrences of stolen data through the usage of malware programs, it comes in last on the list at only 10 percent.
Since it is customer data that is stolen, the company itself is viewed as the catalyst for a potentially massive ID theft crime spree and there is little empathy from customers for the company's losses. Businesses must take action to protect and secure customer data. As evidenced in the statistics above, stringent security procedures for the hardware, like laptops and backup tapes, will guard against the most prominent occurrence of data theft.
As an individual, it is your responsibility to ask questions about how your personal data is handled and secured. To find out what questions to ask, or to get advice on what to do if a company that you deal with has experienced a security breach visit PrivacyRights.org.
The statistics for identity theft are reaching staggering proportions with no signs of a slowdown anytime soon. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the clearinghouse for identity theft reporting, a breakdown of identity theft data from various agencies gives a clear picture that ID theft crimes touch every corner of the nation.
· The U.S. Department of Justice Statistics show:
o More than 7 million households were affected by identity theft in 2004, outpacing drug trafficking as the nation's number one crime.
o The first half of 2006, 432 defendants where charged with aggravated identity theft, nearly twice the number of ID theft charges in all of 2005 (226).
· In Waco, Texas alone, law enforcement reported a 700 percent increase in reported identity theft cases between 2004 and 2005.
· U.S. postal inspectors initiated 1,012 new identity theft-related cases in the first half of 2006, with 1,294 arrests in that same time period.
· The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has upwards of 1,500 open cases related to identity theft.
With identity theft statistics reaching new heights each year, it is more important than ever to start “locking out” potential thieves from access to our personal information as diligently as we lock our doors at night to prevent thieves from gaining access to our homes.
For more statistics about identity theft, information about prevention and protection, and updates on known scam alerts, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center online.
Identity theft statistics are somewhat of a moving target, with new data being gathered and analyzed each year by various interest groups and government organizations. However there are common facts and findings that all documented studies agree upon:
An approximate 10 million people are victims of identity theft every year. That translates to 19 new victims every minute of every day.
The trend is not slowing. Between 2001 and 2002 the reported incidence of identity theft rose 20 percent, and between 2002 and 2003 it increased a whopping 80 percent. More recently, in 2006, the reported identity theft and fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accounted for more than one-third (36 percent) of the total number of complaints for the year. That equates to nearly 250,000 documented reports.
Knowledge of protection and prevention is surprisingly low. According to a study conducted by Harris Interactive, despite the increase of identity theft crimes and expressed concerns of respondents, less than half the people polled stated that they knew how to adequately protect themselves from possible victimization.
The good news for consumers is that more and more government agencies and independent businesses are stepping up to increase consumer awareness of both the identity theft stats and preventive measures that can be taken by individuals.
To begin your own identity theft research and become an informed consumer, you will find helpful information from the FTC web site and from the Identity Theft Resource Center online.
Identity theft criminals are getting smarter. Not only are they finding new ways to con you out of or capture your personal information, but they are also capitalizing on ways to delay discovery of the crime. And the longer it takes to realize you've been a victim, the longer it will likely take to repair the damage.
In a comparison of identity theft data from two Aftermath Studies conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), in 2004, 37.5 percent of respondents said they discovered the ID theft within three months. That percentage is down from 48 percent in 2003. Additionally, 18 percent of 2004 participants said it took four or more years to discover the crime, doubling the 2003 sampling of nine percent.
The longer it takes victims to discover the ID theft, the longer it will likely take to undo the damage, with some cases reported to span ten or more years after the crime is first uncovered. Even if a thief is stopped from using information, victims face a long and winding trail of tracking all the damage, clearing records, proving innocence, closing accounts, and piecing their credit history back together one record and one agency at a time.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|