Identity Theft & Cybercrime: The Facts

Part 1 of 3 Part Blog Series

Identity Theft 1

The recent massive data breach at Equifax highlighted what is happening every day all over the world. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of company’s technology vulnerabilities in order to steal individual’s personal information. The Equifax breach alone compromised the personal information of at least 143 million individuals.
Cybercrime is increasing each year and new technologies are making it easier for cybercriminals to obtain your personal information.
This is Part 1 of our 3 Part blog series on Identity Theft and Cybercrime. We will be examining what is identity theft and cybercrime, how to prevent it, and what to do if you are a victim.

What Is Identity Theft

The crime of identity theft occurs when an imposter obtains key pieces of personal information, such as a Social Security number, driver’s license number, or bank account information, and uses this personal information for their own gain. The victim is left with a tainted reputation and the complicated task of restoring his or her good name.

Cybercrime, or computer related crime, is crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target.

Identity theft 2

Identity theft and cybercrime are complex crimes.  As technology changes and improves, cybercriminals are finding new ways to steal your identity.

The Scope of Identity Theft

The 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. In the past six years identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion.

Following the introduction of microchip equipped credit cards in 2015 in the United States, which make the cards difficult to counterfeit, criminals focused on new account fraud. New account fraud occurs when a thief opens a credit card or other financial account using a victim’s name and other stolen personal information.

Identity Theft and Fraud Complaints

The Consumer Sentinel Network, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), tracks consumer fraud and identity theft complaints that have been filed with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and private organizations. Of the 3.1 million complaints received in 2016, 1.3 million were fraud-related, costing consumers over $744 million.  The median amountconsumers paid in these cases was

Identity theft 3

Within the fraud category, debt collection complaints were the most reported and ranked first among all 30 types of complaints identified by the FTC.  They accounted for 28 percent of all the complaints reported to the FTC and 66 percent of all fraud complaints. In 2016, 13 percent of all complaints were related to identity theft.  Identity theft complaints were the third most reported to the FTC and had increased by more than 47 percent from 2013 to 2015, but fell about 19 percent from 2015 to 2016.

How Victims’ Information is Misused

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the following chart shows how information gained through identity theft is used:

Type of identity theft fraud Percent
Employment or tax-related fraud 34.0%
Tax fraud 29.2
Credit card fraud 32.7
New accounts 25.6
Other identity theft 16.0
Phone or utilities fraud 13.1
Bank fraud (2) 11.8
Loan or lease fraud 6.8
Government documents or benefits fraud 6.6

Percentages are based on the total number of identity theft complaints in the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network (399,225 in 2016). Percentages total to more than 100 because some victims reported experiencing more than one type of identity theft.
Look for Part 2 of 3 Part Identity Theft & Cybercrime Series next month.





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