While the media may not talk about the threat of identity fraud as much as they once did, the risk to your personal and financial information is still very real. Despite conflicting reports from the FTC and a Javelin study of identity theft victims, the picture is still clear: identity theft is a problem.
Cases of Fraud
According to the FTC, 250,000 complaints of identity fraud were received in 2006 alone. That accounted for more than one-third of all the complaints the governmental agency received that year. While that sounds like a large number, the Javelin study funded by members of the financial industry, interviewed more than 8 million victims from the same year. However, Javelin also reported that was a decrease of nearly 12 percent.
Internet Fraud Statistics
Although the Internet was once viewed as the primary source of concern for identity fraud because your personal information could be stolen from your computer or intercepted, the Javelin study found that only 11% of cases involved the Internet. Given the number of cases, that is still a lot of Internet victims. However, Internet users have a bigger problem to worry about: traditional fraud. In 2005, more than 46% of all the cases reported to the Consumer Sentinel program, which was established by the federal government, were cases of fraud, such as requests for wire transfers to Nigeria. Just one-third of all the complaints involved identity theft and that included cases from non-Internet means as well.
The Guilty Party
So who is usually behind acts of fraud? According to the Javelin survey, most people do not know. About three-fourths of victims do not know who stole and misused their identity. Of those that do know, the most common culprit is a family member or friend. That means there is a good chance that someone close to you may be behind the extra charges on your credit card or that unusual account on your credit report.
One thing none of the studies debate is that getting your life back together is not easy for an identity fraud victim. Many people have to spend months or years to rebuild their credit reports. Some victims have continued to have problems long after the original case and may still have trouble getting a loan or a credit card because of events over which they had no control.