Identity Fraud Sets New Record; Theft More Sophisticated

Identity fraud had a banner year in 2017, ensnaring an all-time high of 16.7 million U.S. victims and financial losses topping $16.8 billion. Almost 1 million more consumers were victims of ID theft last year than in 2016, according to the Javelin Strategy & Research 2018 Identity Fraud Study.

The study also highlighted the increasing adaptability – and complexity – with which this new breed of identity thief operates.

The most significant takeaways:

  • Account takeover fraud tripled. Account takeover is when a thief uses your existing account information (credit cards, bank accounts, etc.) to shop, access funds and open new accounts in your name. Total losses reached $5.1 billion – 120 percent more than in 2016. Consumers spent 16 hours on average resolving this type of fraud.
  • Attacks grew increasingly sophisticated. Identity thieves are utilizing more complex fraud methods – and continuing to innovate to avoid detection. Approximately 1.5 million victims of existing account fraud had an intermediary account (PayPal, Amazon, etc.) opened in their name. That’s a 200 percent increase.
  • Embedded chip cards drive fraudsters to go online for victims. “Card Not Present” online fraud is now 81 percent more likely than in-person purchase fraud committed in the store. This is a record for the biggest gap between the two types of fraud, according to the Javelin study.
  • More social security numbers were stolen than credit card numbers, for the first time ever. Thieves use the stolen data to open new accounts in the victim’s name and drain their existing financial accounts.

Despite aggressive efforts throughout the industry to prevent identity fraud, these sophisticated criminals are adept at adjusting strategies and innovating tactics to stay one step ahead. And with the amount of valid personal information fraudsters now have on millions of Americans, the attacks will continue to grow more complex and widespread.

“Twenty-seventeen was a runaway year for fraudsters, and with the amount of valid information they have on consumers, their attacks are just getting more complex,” said Al Pascual, Senior Vice President, Research Director and Head of Fraud & Security, Javelin Strategy & Research in a press release. “Fraudsters are growing more sophisticated in response to the industry’s efforts to implement better security. Fortunately, there are a variety of digital tools that consumers can leverage to stay better informed on the status of their identities and accounts, and to ultimately stay better protected.”

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