• Identity theft is defined as unauthorized or attempted use of existing credit cards (credit card fraud) or other existing accounts such as checking accounts (bank fraud). Identity theft may also involve the misuse of personal information to obtain new accounts or loans, or to commit other crimes. (Identity Theft – Facts and Figures, 2009)
• According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), thieves get your information by stealing records from businesses, by stealing your mail, rummaging through your trash, or abusing their employer’s authorized access to credit information or by impersonating someone who has a legal right to access your report. They may also steal your identity by capturing your credit or debit card numbers in a data storage device, by stealing your wallet or purse, by completing a “change of address form” to divert your mail, by stealing personal information from your home, or by posing as legitimate companies asking you for information through e-mail or phone (a practice known as “phishing”). (How Identity Theft Occurs, 2010)
• The FTC also states that armed with your personal information, thieves may call the issuer of your credit card to change the billing address and then run up charges on your account. They may also take a variety actions in your name: open new credit card accounts, establish phone or wireless service, open a bank account, or carry out many other forms of fraud. (How Identity Theft Occurs, 2010)
• The FTC recommends that if you become a victim of identity theft, you should take these steps immediately: (1) place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports; (2) close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently; (3) file a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft occurred; and (4) file a complaint with the FTC. (How Identity Theft Occurs, 2010)
• A report by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) called The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January through December 2009 states that the CSN received more than 1.3 million complaints during 2009. The composition of the complaints was as follows: 54 percent fraud complaints, 21 percent identity theft complaints, and 25 percent other types of complaints. (FTC Complaint Data, 2009)
• According to the CSN report, the most common form of reported identity theft was credit card fraud (17 percent), followed by government documents/benefits fraud (16 percent), phone or utilities fraud (15 percent), and employment fraud (13 percent). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were bank fraud (10 percent) and loan fraud (4 percent). (FTC Complaint Data, 2009)
• The CSN report also states that Florida is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints, followed by Arizona and Texas. (FTC Complaint Data, 2009)
• The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)–a nonprofit organization that assists identity theft victims, educates the public about identity theft, and provides enterprise consulting related to information breach–has conducted annual identity theft victimization surveys since 2003. Seventy-four percent of respondents to the surveys reported ‘unlawful use of personal identifying information’ for only financial identity theft crimes; the remaining 26 percent consisted of criminal identity theft, governmental identity theft, and/or combinations of those actions. (ITRC’s 2009 Aftermath Study, 2009)
• The ITRC report showed that opening new lines of credit continues to be the most frequently occurring use for stolen identities. This was true of 55 percent of respondents to the surveys upon which the report was based, while 34 percent of the reported cases involved charges on stolen credit and debit cards. (ITRC’s 2009 Aftermath Study, 2009)
References:• Identity Theft – Facts and Figures. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.ncjrs.gov/spotlight/identity_theft/facts.html.
• How Identity Theft Occurs. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.shtm#How.
• FTC Complaint Data. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/reference-desk/national-data.html.
• ITRC’s 2009 Aftermath Study. (2009). Retrieved from http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/358216/36f148a40f/1746500010/8c36bcaafa/.