Survey: Identity Theft Not as Big a Threat

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Data compromise involving identity fraud is less widespread than previously thought, according to a survey released yesterday by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and Javelin Strategy & Research, a research firm covering financial services, payments, e-commerce and identity fraud.


The 2006 Identity Fraud Survey Report, based on 5,000 telephone interviews with consumers, was made possible partly by CheckFree, Visa and Wells Fargo & Company.


Identity fraud victims declined slightly from 4.7 percent to 4.0 percent of U.S. adults between 2003 and 2005, the survey said.


"Our numbers clarify four key misperceptions about identity fraud," said James Van Dyke, Javelin's founder and principal analyst, who oversaw the survey. "Most importantly, people are not helpless in protecting themselves from identity theft. Contrary to popular belief, consumers do not bear the brunt of financial losses from identity fraud. Internet use does not increase the risk of identity fraud. And seniors are not the most frequent targets of fraud operators."


The report offers these findings:


· The number of U.S. adult victims of identity fraud within the past 12 months declined between 2003 and 2005 from 10.1 million people to 8.9 million.


· However, the average fraud amount per case has risen from $5,249 to $6,383 over two years. As a result, the yearly cost of identity fraud in the United States has increased from $53.2 billion in 2003 to $56.6 billion in 2005.


· 68 percent of identity fraud victims incur no out-of-pocket expenses, indicating that businesses are victims as well. Average out-of-pocket expenses were $422 in 2005, $675 in 2004 and $555 in 2003.


· Victims spend more time to resolve identity fraud cases, up from 33 hours in 2003 to 40 hours in 2005.


· 90 percent of data compromise occurs through traditional offline channels and not via the Internet, for the 47 percent of victims who could identify the source of data compromise.


· Lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks or credit cards remain the primary source (30 percent) of personal information theft when the victim can identify the source of data compromise.


· 47 percent of identity theft is perpetrated by friends, neighbors, in-home employees, family members or relatives -- someone known -- when the victim can identify the perpetrator of data compromise. In 36 percent of cases, victims could identify the person who misused their information. This includes stolen mail.


· Nearly 70 percent of consumers shred documents, so that trash as a source of data compromise is now less than 1 percent.


· The 65-plus age group has the smallest rate of identity fraud victims (2.3 percent). The 35-44 age group has the highest average fraud amount ($9,435).


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