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6 identity theft facts you must know

Megan Wells
  • Banking
  • 5 minute read

As stories about identity theft and data breaches become more prevalent, knowledge about cybercrime is of the utmost importance. Who do cyber criminals target? What are they doing with your information? Why are you a target?

You may be surprised by the common uses of stolen information, or perhaps by the people most targeted by these criminals. Here are six identity theft facts you can’t afford to ignore.


Difference between identity theft and fraud

Identity theft occurs when sensitive information is compromised but not necessarily for monetary reasons. Identity fraud takes it a step further — typically a result of identity theft, where financial gain is the goal. According to TransUnion, only 28 percent of identity theft cases result in financial or credit fraud.

Some states are more frequent victims

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ranked each U.S. state by the amount of fraud and identity theft complaints filed in its most recent Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, released in February 2014 and reporting on complaints filed in 2013. Florida topped both complaint lists by a long shot with four preceding states offering additional shocking numbers.

1. Florida

  • Complaints of fraud: 804.0 per 100,000 residents (157.383 total)
  • Complaints of ID theft: 192.9 per 100,000 residents (37,720 total)

2. Georgia

  • Complaints of fraud: 621.7 per 100,000 residents (62,121 total)
  • Complaints of ID theft: 134.1 per 100,000 residents (13,402 total)

3. Nevada

  • Complaints of fraud: 622 per 100,000 residents (17,354 total)
  • Complaints of ID theft: 97.1 per 100,000 residents (2,708 total)

4. Michigan

  • Complaints of fraud: 579.6 per 100,000 residents (57,358 total)
  • Complaints of ID theft: 97.1 per 100,000 residents (9,606 total)

5. Delaware

  • Complaints of fraud: 592.3 per 100,000 residents (5,483 total)
  • Complaints of ID theft: 81.1 per 100,000 residents (751 total)

There is a parallel between the five most targeted states and the types of complaints filed. The most common fraud complaint in each of these states is in the debt collection category, and the most common identity theft complaint was stolen information used for government documents or benefits fraud.

What thieves do with stolen information

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book shows that 33.9 percent of identity theft victims complained about the misuse of their information to falsify government documents like tax or wage papers, government benefits and driver’s licenses, making it the most common complaint of 2013.

The second most common form of fraud (16.9 percent) is credit card fraud, with 11.2 percent of credit card fraud victims said crooks used their stolen personal information to open a new account. Keeping a close eye on your credit score and credit report by using WisePiggy.com can help you catch wrongdoings, like suspicious new accounts, early on.

Ages most targeted

70 and over. It should come as no surprise that grandma and grandpa get scammed. But just how often does this happen? Between 2012 and 2013 the increase of fraudulent complaints for Americans age 70 and older went up 24.03 percent, which represents an increase for the third year in a row. This year-over-year change, which averages at 17.53 percent per year, is higher than that of any other age group.

Baby boomers. Although adults ages 70 and older have more year-over-year growth for fraud and identity theft, Americans ages 50-59 filed the most complaints. In 2011 this age group was responsible for 23 percent of all complaints. This age group’s complaints are decreasing yearly, according to the aforementioned Consumer Sentinel Network study, but as of 2013 they still account for 20 percent of all complaints filed, again the highest on record.

What fraud costs

More often than not, consumers state that they pay nothing monetarily as a result of fraud, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a cost-free crime. Between 2011 and 2013 there has been a 46.34 percent increase in consumers who spent between $251-500 dealing with the aftermath of fraud. And, although marginal, 4 percent of victims ended up paying more than $5,000 as a result of fraud.

According to the FTC, Californians paid the most for fraud in 2013 at $232,509,838, beating out Florida by $123,605,644.

Consumer protections vary by state

Rest assured that every state and the District of Columbia currently have laws and criminal penalties against identity theft and fraud. However, each state has varying levels of consumer protection. To date, 47 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws which require private or government entities to notify individuals whenever security is breached and personally identifiable information may have been compromised, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The last states to adopt security breach notification laws are Alabama, New Mexico and South Dakota.