Last Year in Identity Theft

7% of all U.S. residents age 16 and over were ID theft victims in 2014.

Each week, Consolidated Credit searches for financial research that can help you deal with your debt and budget. This week…

The interesting study

In the fall the Bureau of Justice puts out a report about identity theft cases from the previous year. The BJS report for 2014 was released in September and it’s telling.

 

The big result

For every 100 residents in the U.S. age 16 older, seven of those people were the victims of some kind of ID theft last year.

  • 3% experienced misuse of a credit card account
  • 3% were victims of bank account misuse
  • The last 1% were victims of misuse of other types of accounts or misuse of personal information, such as opening new accounts

So if you managed to make it through 2014 without addressing a fraud alert from a creditor or clearing out charges you didn’t make on your debit card, consider yourself lucky.

The fascinating details

Here are some additional broad-level statistics from the report:

  • 86% of all victims had an existing account misused – be it a credit card, bank account or other type of credit
  • 14% of victims experienced out-of-pocket losses of $1 or more, and half suffered losses over $100
  • 36% of victims reported moderate to severe emotional distress as a result
  • Women were victims of identity theft more often than men
  • One in eight white Americans became a victim of ID theft, but only one in five African Americans and one in five Hispanics faced the same threat
  • People age 18-64 had the highest rates of theft by percentage, although the number of elderly victims has increased by about ½ million since 2012
  • 45% of victims found out about the theft because they were contacted by the financial institution that issued the account; 18% noticed fraudulent charges, while 9% noticed missing money

What you can do

First and foremost, pay attention to any attempts of contact from your creditors and bank. Nearly half of the victims realized there was an issue with theft because they received fraud notifications from their creditor or bank. Don’t ignore emails and calls from your financial institutions even if it’s your kneejerk reaction because you’ve dodged these calls in the past.

Next, make sure to review your transactions and monthly statements carefully to ensure all of the purchases made on that account are actually yours. Even if you’ve gone to paperless billing, take time to check your monthly statements when you receive email notification that the statement is ready. Additionally, the more you check your accounts, the more likely you are to notice a decrease in your credit line or account balance.

Taking those two steps can help you avoid the other bad ways that victims in 2014 learned their identity had been stolen:

  • 7% had a card declined or a check that bounced
  • 6% had problems when they applied for a loan or government benefits
  • 6% had the interesting experience of receiving merchandise they never ordered
  • And the worst – 0.4% were contacted by the police

And keep in mind that you don’t have to pay money for something like a credit monitoring service to ensure your personal information is safe. While these services can help by providing additional fraud alerts directly to your phone or email inbox, you can just as easily monitor by checking your statements and then taking time to review your credit report once every year.