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Surprising Facts About Identity Theft

Last Updated: December 22, 2021
3 min read

First, the good news: In 2018, the incidence of identity fraud fell from 5.47 percent to 4.4 percent over the previous year, according to newly released data from Javelin Strategy & Research. Researchers suggest this is due to technological advances, including chip card technology, but it’s not time to break out the party hats just yet. Researchers also uncovered worrying new trends and found that Americans remain vulnerable to identity thieves.

Consider these surprising facts about identity theft — and tips for protecting yourself.

In 2018, the out-of-pocket costs Americans shouldered for identity theft recovery came to $1.7 billion

The Javelin study also touches on the cost incurred by consumers. While it’s true that there are ways to mitigate the damage of identity theft, the tools and services offered can vary for each financial institution. In addition, it can take time and other resources to ensure that your identity is secure once you’ve become the victim of identity theft.

The costs incurred for identity theft recovery may include having to take time off from work or borrowing money from friends or family while funds are frozen or otherwise inaccessible. In addition, there is the emotional and psychological trauma of dealing with identity theft and its aftermath.

Takeovers of mobile phones doubled between 2017 and 2018

Here’s a forceful argument for waiting until you’re on a secure network to check your bank account balances: According to the Javelin study, nearly 680,000 victims of identity theft were targeted via mobile phone accounts. The takeaway: While two-step authentication, an extra layer of security that requires two types of credentials for verification, can be a smart way to safeguard important passwords, they aren’t fail-proof, and being diligent about checking your financial info and keeping it safe is more important than ever.

Identity thieves target more than financial accounts

It’s easy to focus on your credit cards and bank accounts, but the 2018 Javelin research concluded that identity thieves are also targeting retirement accounts, student loan accounts and even travel rewards and loyalty programs. Bottom line: It’s crucial to keep track of all accounts in your name and regularly monitor them for any unusual activity.

New-account fraud can be an issue

Even if everything looks normal on your financial statements, they may not be providing you with a complete picture of whether or not your identity is intact. That’s because identity thieves are increasingly focusing on “new account fraud.” An identity thief can open an account in your name — without your knowledge and even if you don’t have a line of credit. So what can you do to help keep your identity secure? It may be a good idea to purchase a credit monitoring service like Discover’s Identity Theft Protection, which can help you monitor your personal information.

Phishing is a primary path to identity theft

Many cyber attacks begin with a phishing email. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Phishing emails are crafted to appear as if they have been sent from a legitimate organization or known individual. These emails often attempt to entice users to click on a link that will take the user to a fraudulent website that appears legitimate.”

You may, for example, see an email address in the “from” line that looks just like one originating from your place of business or a good friend. It’s smart to be vigilant about emails requesting money or sensitive information or asking you to click a link. When in doubt, verify the legitimacy of the communication by calling the person or institution directly. In general, it’s wise not to click on any link in an email; instead try locating the page by typing the URL directly in your browser.

Identity theft can be scary, but knowledge is a powerful form of defense. Knowing how identity thieves operate may help you avoid having your information targeted. Having strategies in place that reduce the risk of identity theft not only helps keep your financial information safe, but they also give you peace of mind.

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