Each year, the Federal Trade Commission collects data on consumer complaints and analyzes said data in order to improve consumer experiences in the United States. And for the 14th consecutive year, identity theft tops the charts as the most reported consumer complaint in the US.
The FTC defines identity theft as that which “happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission.” Considering the definition of identity theft is so broad, one could expect it to be more reported than other consumer-related complaints.
However, the enormity of the issue of identity theft should not be understated. According to the FTC, consumers lost $1.6 billion in 2013 due to cases of identity theft. Of over 2 million complaints filed with the FTC, law enforcement, or consumer complaint agencies, 290,056, or 14 percent, were attributed to cases of identity theft.
Taking a closer look at the numbers, one can get a picture of the most vulnerable ways for one to become a victim of identity theft. Of all identity theft cases, 43 percent were victimized through email, 21 percent through a telephone conversation, and another 20 percent through a website. The average reported loss due to fraud was $2,294 per consumer.
Adam Levin, the Co-Founder and Chairman of Credit.com and IdentityTheft911, discussed the importance of protecting against identity theft: “Today’s Consumer Sentinel Report underscores something too many Americans already know first-hand: identity theft is a persistent, pernicious crime. In light of the recent, unrelenting string of data breaches in the retail and higher education sectors, the number of people victimized by identity thieves is only going to grow by leaps and bounds. Identity thieves are going to keep coming at us through every means at their disposal, be that through illicitly-acquired phone numbers or leaked emails, and they won’t stop because it continues to be extremely lucrative for them. ”
The numbers support Levin’s statement. Due to the drastic surge in identity theft schemes, consumer information is now flooding the black market. According to a Dell SecureWorks report, scammers and identity thieves can now buy “fullz” – dossiers full of consumer information such as names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and phone numbers – for the low price of $25. This price is down a staggering 37 percent from the previous year, most likely due to an over-abundance of readily available information at thieves’ disposal.
If one feels as if one has been a victim of identity theft, the FTC encourages a visit to its website where one can glean information on the steps to take immediately upon discovering that one has been a victim of identity theft.