Identity Theft Is On The Rise

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

According to data revealed in a recent report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, since 2005 identity theft has increased by 33%. In the United States, approximately 8.6 million households had a minimum of one person over the age of 12 who was a victimized by an identity thief.

The U.S. Department of Justice concluded in a recent study that an increasing number of American citizens are falling victim to identity thieves. In 2005, there were 6.4 million households across the country that had one or more members experience some sort of identity theft while last year in 2010 that number rose to 8.6 million households. The cost of 2010’s portion of identity theft crimes is roughly $13.3 billion, averaging about $2,200 per person.

While unauthorized credit card charges are being blamed for the bulk of the increase, the term “identity theft” also refers to crimes involving the fraudulent use of Paypal accounts, as well as other kinds of financial accounts such as banking or savings accounts.

The holiday shopping season – November and December – sees an average 19% rise in reports of lost and stolen credit cards, according to PNC Bank. Because shoppers are often frenzied and overburdened, it’s easy for them to be distracted while out spending. This is something thieves take advantage of.

One of the ways shoppers can protect themselves against identity theft is to use cash or credit cards as opposed to debit cards when making purchases. Credit cards offer consumers a higher level of protection against fraudulent charges, while debit cards are directly linked to a checking account and can lead to greater losses. Consumers should keep a sharp eye out for skimming devices attached to gas pumps and ATM machines. Thieves install those devices in order to steal payment card information and corresponding PIN numbers.

Also contributing to the rise in identity theft is the ever-growing use of mobile devices. One-third of Americans utilize their mobile phone for activity related to shopping.

“Shopping remotely on unsecure networks, making purchases at unfamiliar websites and failing to check your account statements – behaviors like these can put consumers at risk,” said Christine El Eris, the director at PrivacyGuard.

Some other interesting findings in the Department of Justice report are: households that are headed by an individual 65 years of age or older had only a 3.3% rate of identity theft, the lowest rate of all while households in the highest income category – $75,000 or higher annually – have a greater likelihood of suffering identity theft than less affluent ones.

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