Identity Theft Trends

Jan 19, 2012 by

I haven’t yet seen 2011 data published, but the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (part of the federal Justice Department) reported in November 2011 identity theft data through 2010. The graphic below—derived from the BJS report—shows the percentage of U.S. households affected by identity theft for the four years 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010. Also shown are trends in the major types of identity theft. infographic: ID theft reports jump 33 percent in 5 years

The numbers across the bottom of this graphic should be labeled “Percentage of Households Affected”.

The good news—pending 2011 data—is that, by this measure, identity theft is trending down, mainly due to decreases in credit card and personal information theft. I would point out, however, that these data do not necessarily mean that the total number of incidences of ID theft have declined, only that the percentage of households affected dropped. Since the number of households increases each year, ID theft incidences may well still be rising.

In my experience, credit card companies have gotten considerably more aggressive in combating fraud. I recently used my wife’s credit card to make an online purchase in my name, and within 10 minutes of the transaction her credit card issuer sent an urgent fraud alert email and phoned our home. And the issuer of my credit card now offers a free alert service that sends me a text message or email every time my credit (or debit) card is used.

Criminals seem always to operate at the cutting edge of technology and creativity, and ID thieves are no different. New techniques and scams appear daily it seems. Legitimate, but profiteering, businesses have cashed in by offering for sale to spooked consumers all sorts of fraud alert and protection programs. I wouldn’t spend a nickel on any such service.

I think the best (and free) protection is to exercise common sense in protecting your personal information, review your credit report regularly, and follow-up on the FTC’s advice and alerts regarding identity theft.

Are You a Victim?

Have you been victimized by identity theft? What did it take to repair the situation?

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