Some Surprising Findings About Identity Theft
True or False? Internet use increases the risk of identity theft.
True or False? Consumers bear the brunt of financial losses from ID fraud.
True or False? Seniors are the most frequent target of ID fraudsters.
The survey of 5,000 Americans is full of a number of surprising findings that challenge many of the assumptions we all have about identity theft.
First off, most of the compromised data is not taken through the Internet. In fact, the traditional offline channels, such as lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks or credit cards, continue to be the primary source of ID theft. What's more, almost half of all identity theft is perpetrated by someone the victim knows: friends, neighbors, family members, in-home employees, etc. And with nearly 70 percent of consumers shredding documents, trash also is not a great source of compromised data, the survey says.
Second, the average fraud amount per case is now $6,383, up from $5,249 two years ago. But the average out-of-pocket cost for consumer is down to $422, compared to $657 last year. That means businesses are bearing the bulk of the costs. Even so, consumers are spending a lot more time trying to resolve ID fraud: 40 hours, up from 33 in 2003
Third, 25 to 34 year olds, not seniors, are the most susceptible targets, most likely because they conduct more transactions and are therefore at the greatest risk, according to Javelin founder James Van Dyke. In fact, the 65 and older crowd are the least victimized of all the age groups surveyed. But the 35-44 year olds have the highest average fraud amount--$9,435.
As a percent of the U.S. adult population, the study shows the number of fraud victims has dropped from 4.7 percent to 4 percent between 2003 and 2006.
Van Dyke says that instead of being afraid of the Internet, consumers should rely on it more to deter ID theft. Specifically, he recommends that we stop all paper statements and instead monitor our accounts online--and do so weekly to detect fraud quickly.
As the survey noted, consumers detect almost half the fraud cases, with 11 percent of the victims caught by monitoring credit reports. You know what that means. If you haven't reviewed at least one of your credit reports lately, do so now. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again. You're entitled to a free report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. So check yours today.
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