Identity Theft on the Increase

The number of identity theft victims in the USA increased to 13.1million in 2013 from 12.6 million in 2012. This is an increase of 500,000 cases and shows that thieve are becoming more sophisticated with their methods to illegally obtain confidential data.

The statistic have been gathered and presented by Javelin Strategy & Research who conduct an annual survey. The results for 2013 are the second highest since the start of the survey in 2004 with the greatest number of identity theft victims being 13.9 million in 2009. However, something to keep in mind is that this survey was completed in October 2013, before the retail company Target was successfully attacked by cyber thieves.

The study by Javelin Strategy & Research concluded that data breaches were one of the main sources of fraud in 2013. In total, one in three people who received notification of a data breach resulted in their identity being used for fraudulent activities.

Alphonse Pascual who is a senior analyst of security, risk and fraud at Javelin believes that there has been a shift in method of attacks where large organisations are being targeted more frequently.

Pascual stated, “Rather than a large number of smaller breaches as was more common in the past … we are now seeing larger retailers being targeted on a much more consistent basis.”

Pascual was also very critical of the larger organisations who are keeping confidential data belonging to thousands of people and their security measures which seem to be getting successfully bypassed on a more regular basis.

Pascual claimed, “This data clearly exposes just how ineffective current security practices have become. The businesses we trust with our personal information have become easy targets.”

As the number of victims of identity theft has increased in 2013, the amount of money that was stolen actually decreased. A total of $18 billion was stolen in 2013 which is a reduction of $3 billion in 2012 which totalled $21 billion. This reduction has been largely credited to financial institutions as they are now detecting fraudulent activities at a much quicker rate and are therefore closing down accounts much sooner.

Adam Levin who is the chairman of Identity Theft 911 believes that despite the reduction of money being stolen, the number of identity theft victims is very worrying due to the consequences that it can have on the victim.

Levin stated, “It’s not just about dollars and cents; it’s about the victims. ID theft disrupts your life. It creates real havoc and sometimes the consequences are horrendous. We need to keep these criminals from breaking and entering databases in the first place.”

By following a few simple steps, you can significantly reduce the possibility of becoming another victim of identity theft and identity fraud.

By ensuring that security software is installed on all computers and mobile phones and keeping them up to date by ensuring the latest security updates have been downloaded and applied helps significantly. These devices should be protected by strong passwords which should be changed on a regular basis. Monitoring bank account and credit card statements regularly and ensuring that all personal documents that are no longer needed are shredded and disposed of appropriately will also go a long way to ensuring that you don’t become a victim of identity theft and identity fraud.

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