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Monday, February 23, 2009


“For the first time in the past five years, identity fraud rates increased over the prior year. Yet during the same period, average consumer costs decreased sharply, according to the new Javelin report on identity theft.” Discouraging, yet somewhat encouraging. But some figures in the “Executive Summary” are downright frightening.

• Identity Fraud Victims Increased 22% to 9.9 Million in 2008
• Existing Credit Card Frauds Drive Expanding Incidence Rates
• Economic Downturn Historically Results in Increased Domestic Fraud
• Traditional Access to Private Data Continues to Be Commonplace
• Social Security Numbers/name and address Top Compromised Data among Victims

Let’s explore each of these points with hard figures. 1.8 million more ID theft victims in 2008 over 2007 means an additional $892,800,000 out of the consumers’ pockets, and $7.8 billion lost by business. Total loss for 2008 is $48 billion compared to $45 billion in 2007.

Annual credit card fraud grew by 16 percent from $19 billion to $22 billion in 2008. New credit card accounts fraud also rose by 20%, from $15 billion to $18 billion. For four years now, I have been expressing my concerns over unsolicited credit card mailings in this blog, one of the vehicles the crooks use to open new accounts.

With the unemployment rate topping 7 percent and thousands more jobs lost each month, there is desperation in the air in this economic downturn that is not likely to end any time soon. It provides the perfect environment for fraud, and today the fraud of choice seems to be stealing someone’s identity with whatever financial gain the crooks can extort. This demands the closest scrutiny ever for any transaction involving personal data.

While online access to private information remains at 11 percent according to the 35 percent of victims knowing who accessed their data, traditional access is still extensive. Things like the losing or stealing of your wallet, checkbooks or credit cards, totaling 43 percent of incidents where access is known. And here’s the kicker…a point I have been harping on for two years. There was an increase in data used that had been stolen and held for use until the one and two-year time periods ran out for free credit report inspections given by the breachers. I still believe this is the biggest threat to the security of our sensitive data.

Don’t give away the bank…in this case your Social Security number. In 38 percent of Javelin’s survey respondents, the data compromised was SS numbers. Name and address accounted for 43 percent, and when you add date of birth to the latter, that is all that’s necessary to wreak havoc with your credit.

Along with all the above, when you consider that the resolution time to correct the problem climbed again to 30 hours in 2008 from 26 in 2007, it should be obvious to all that protection is the way to go, and I don’t mean paid protection but simple preventive measures consumers can use on a daily.

An interesting point: with the millions of individuals buying protective ID theft services in 2008, we still had a 20.7 percent increase in fraud victims as a percent of U.S. population. From 3.58% in 2007 to 4.32% in 2008. Think about it.

If you want solid, thorough and concise information on how your identity can be breached, and how you can protect yourself from fraud, go to the Javelin 2009 Identity Fraud Survey Report – Consumer version. There is no easy way to handle this dilemma, and until the American public realizes that they must take responsibility in the protection of their names and personal data, we won’t see an end to the identity crisis.

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