Identity Fraud is Changing Dramatically as Criminals Increasingly Target Victims’ Online Lives

Since 2003, Javelin Strategy & Research has published annual studies on identity fraud. In recent years, the number of victims has tended to range between 10 and 15 million.
July 4, 2022
Identity Theft

According to a new study, traditional identity fraud losses caused by criminals illegally using victims’ information to steal money will increase by 79 percent in 2021 to $24 billion (USD). 

Furthermore, the number of adults in the United States affected by traditional identity fraud increased by more than 50%, reaching over 15 million victims.

$52 Billion Lost to Identity Thieves

Dollars

Since 2003, Javelin Strategy & Research has published annual studies on identity fraud. In recent years, the number of victims has tended to range between 10 and 15 million. According to Javelin’s most recent survey, the comparable number for 2021 is 15 million people, with losses increasing by 79% year on year to $24 billion.

These figures pertain to what Javelin refers to as “traditional identity fraud,” in which victims frequently have no idea how their information was compromised. Crooks may have exploited company fraud prevention technologies or used malware and other “crimeware” to steal people’s personal information. Data breaches are one example.

Javelin has also begun collecting data on “identity fraud scams,” in which consumers are duped into providing personal information via phone calls, email, text messages, or other means of communication. According to the survey, 27 million people lost $28 billion to identity fraud scams. In their case, they frequently recall when they were duped into providing their information.

This brings the total number of victims and losses from traditional identity fraud and identity fraud scams to 42 million and $52 billion, respectively.

Identity theft led all categories of FTC complaints in 2020, accounting for nearly a third of all FTC reports (1.4 million). Identity theft affects everyone, no matter how smart or savvy they are. “If you live in the United States and have ID credentials, I can guarantee you will have identity theft problems,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the ITRC.

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Reported Categories of Identity Theft

The following were the top four categories of identity theft reported to the FTC:

  1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud – Specifically, and most likely as a result of the pandemic, fraudulent applications for government benefits such as unemployment insurance increased 2,900%.
  2. Credit Card Fraud – the opening of fraudulent accounts far outweighed the compromise of existing accounts.
  3. Loan or Lease Fraud – The number of fraudulent applications for business or personal loans increased by 127%.
  4. Employment or Tax-Related Fraud – theft of consumer tax information increased by 225 percent.

The number of identity theft reports varied greatly across the 50 states. Kansas led the way with 1,483 reports per 100,000 people. South Dakota had the lowest rate, with 72 per 100,000 people. Mississippi ranked 17th with 371 per 100,000 people and Tennessee ranked 26th with 281.

Stolen identity

According to the ITRC, cyberattacks are the most common strategy used by identity thieves. Phishing, malware, ransomware, and data breaches are among them. Impostor scams, which include impersonating government agencies, delivery companies such as FedEx and UPS, and an online love interest, are also common ways for criminals to steal personal information. 

A fake invitation to a video conference that downloads malware to your computer is a new scam that takes advantage of the pandemic-driven work-from-home boom. And good old-fashioned dumpster diving and mail theft from mailboxes are still practiced.

The Findings of The Study

The study also discovered that losses from identity fraud scams, in which a fraud operator persuades a victim to divulge or expose personal information, cost an additional $28 billion in losses, affecting an additional 27 million U.S. adults. Identity fraud losses totaled $52 billion, affecting 42 million U.S. adults.

“In 2021, criminals reverted to pre-pandemic tactics by focusing on virtual attack vectors like bots, malware, and a variety of identity fraud scams,” said John Buzzard, Javelin’s lead fraud and security analyst and report author. “Furthermore, data from 2021 show that criminals will change tactics to avoid detection and maximize the amount of information they can extract from victims.”

The 19th year of the study revealed significant shifts in how criminals defrauded victims in 2021. Among the observed trends were significant increases in account takeover fraud and new account fraud, in which fraud operators used a variety of techniques to steal victims’ personal information and drain them of billions of dollars. Among the findings are:

  • New account fraud increased by 109 percent, allowing criminals with consumer information to open multiple unauthorized accounts ranging from merchant accounts to credit cards at times.
  • As criminals hacked victims’ online lives, account takeover losses increased by 90%.
  • Fraud on existing credit cards increased by 69%, while fraud on existing non-card accounts, such as checking, savings, insurance, or utilities, increased by 73%.

Findings

Individual identity fraud had a greater impact in 2021, with the average per-victim loss from traditional identity fraud increasing by $201 to $1,551, while identity fraud scams claimed $1,029 per victim. In addition, victims spent an average of nine hours dealing with identity fraud issues.

“The 2021 losses are staggering and demonstrate how damaging identity fraud has become,” said Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of Fraud Prevention Programs. “Institutions must demonstrate empathy for the financial and emotional toll that identity fraud exacts on its victims, who expect and deserve to be treated with dignity regardless of their circumstances.”

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Account fraud’s meteoric rise demonstrates that criminals will use stolen consumer information to extract as much financial benefit as possible, complicating the resolution process for victims and adding time and expense to what is already an exhausting, stressful experience. To protect yourself from any type of identity theft, follow the steps below:

  • Be cautious when disclosing personal information.
  • Maintain system security features and use strong, unique passwords.
  • Protect your documents and devices at home. Documents that are no longer needed should be shredded.
  • Do not open links or attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages.
  • Take data breach notices seriously and, if available, sign up for free credit monitoring.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your accounts.

Finally, report any suspicious activity or communications to the Chargebacking experts. You can successfully keep your money safe with Cash and avoid scams by following a few of the steps identified by the professionals at Chargebacking.

Take your time, as you would with any other type of investment, and avoid making rash financial decisions. Consider hiring a financial advisor to teach you about trading and help you create a comprehensive financial plan. Finally, don’t be shy about asking a lot of questions!

Chargebacking advises you to remain vigilant against different kinds of scam. Visit our news page for more updates and guides

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