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Identity Theft Stats, Facts and Figures for 2020

Your personal information, and that of nearly every other consumer in the world, resides on numerous servers around the globe. This makes you, and everyone else, vulnerable to identity theft.

Data theft continues to be a big problem, although there has been some good news on that front over the last few years. Javelin Strategy reports that the number of U.S. identity theft victims dropped by 15% in 2018, compared to 2017.

However, identity theft remains a big business, and Javelin Strategy also found that children are increasingly common targets of identity fraud. Over 1 million children were victims of ID theft in 2017, resulting in total financial losses of $2.6 billion and over $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to families.

In this article, we’ll take a look at statistics, facts and figures related to identity theft & bank fraud in recent years. I do this in the hope that this gives my readers a better idea of how and why identity theft continues to be a pressing problem for individuals, businesses and more.

Identity Theft Statistics

Top Targets for Cyber Criminals: Credit Cards and Social Security Numbers

Credit card fraud has been a problem ever since the first American Express and Bank Americard (later called VISA) credit cards were issued in 1958. However, with the debut of e-commerce in the 1990s, “Card Not Present” (CNP) credit card fraud became easier than ever.

When the first Social Security numbers were handed out in 1936, they were originally intended only to track the earnings history of U.S. workers for Social Security entitlement programs. Since then, the numbers have become a nearly universal identifier, making them attractive to identity thieves.

Credit Card and Social Security Fraud Stats

How Can You Reduce Your Chances of Identity Theft?

While you can’t keep yourself 100% free of the risk of identity theft, you can take steps to greatly reduce your risks and increase your online protection. Here are some key common sense tips on how to be safer:

  • Always use a unique, secure password for each account. A secure password is considered to be at least 8 characters (the longer, the better), and be made up of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters when allowed.
  • If you’re like most users, you’ll have a hard time remembering a unique password for each account, and may be tempted to write them down or store them in a text file or spreadsheet. Don’t do that. Use a password management program, such as 1Password, Dashlane or LastPass. All three of these password managers save your passwords in an encrypted database and can autofill your password information into websites and apps. They also sync your password info across all of your connected devices, so it’s always there when you need it.
  • In addition to secure passwords, use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 2FA adds another layer of authentication to logins, requiring a piece of information only you would know (such as a code generated by a trusted app on your device), or have at hand, such as your fingerprint. (See what I did there?)
  • When you are accessing your bank accounts, credit card info, shopping online, or are engaged in any sensitive online activity, protect your activities from prying eyes by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your internet connection, preventing any third parties from electronically eavesdropping on your connection. This is especially important when you are using unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspots, such as at your local coffee shop.
  • Don’t open suspicious-looking emails. While Gmail and other mail services offer efficient spam filters, they can’t catch everything. Don’t open any emails from unknown senders, and be wary of clicking on any links or opening any attachments sent with the email. Even if the link or attachment is sent from what appears to be a trusted sender, be wary. Contact the sender independently to make sure they included the link or attachment. Also, there are no Algerian princes who want to share their fortune with you, and that email promising a free trip to Hawaii is also likely a scam.
  • Avoid “too good to be true” offers or contests on social media. If an offer doesn’t come from a reputable, official company page, be very wary.
  • Always monitor your financial information & accounts for suspicious activity. If you see activity you didn’t do, report it immediately. Even if the suspicious activity is just a small charge to your credit card statement or bank account, report it. The bad guys will often charge a small “test” amount to ensure the credit card works or that they have access to your bank account numbers and financial information.
  • Keep an eye on your credit reports, your credit score as this can highlight identity thieves if they apply for credit on your behalf. Your credit history is important to an identity thief.
  • Always keep your software updated. Whether it’s your computer or mobile device’s operating system, your bank’s app, or your anti-malware or antivirus app, keep it updated.

In Closing

As you can see, the financial impact of identity theft is a growing problem that isn’t going away any time soon. While you can’t 100% ensure that your identity won’t be stolen in one of the ways I’ve discussed in this article, you can take steps to lower your risk of identity theft.

Identify Theft Q&A

How Fast Can Someone Steal Your Identity?

While there are no available estimates on how quickly your identity can be stolen, it happens on a daily basis.

As many as 1 in 10 people are victims of identity fraud annually, with 21% of individuals being victimized more than once. In 2019, there were more than 73,600 incidents reported in total across California alone. (The state was the most popular state for identity thieves in 2019.)

Do Police Investigate Identity Theft?

Unfortunately, the police can do little to investigate identity theft. Such crimes usually involve multiple jurisdictions, states or even countries, making prosecution more difficult. However, the identity theft report can help you in getting false information taken off of your credit report and placing an extended fraud alert on credit reports.

How to Guard Against Identity Theft on Facebook?

Lock down your account on Facebook. Be careful who you make your photos and posts available to. Even allowing friends of friends to see your posts can increase the chances of identity theft. Never post images that include your driver’s license, credit cards or other photos that could include identifying information.

Stay alert. If you receive a friend request from someone who is already included in your friends list, you or your friend could be a victim of identity theft.


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