An Analysis of Identity Theft Through The Victims Eyes

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Identity Theft Resource Center's release on its 5th Annual Aftermath Study - an Analysis of Identity Theft Through the Victim's Eyes.

The following are some highlights of The Aftermath 2007 study. An analysis of the entire study was done by two business analysts and a psychologist, with their comments included in the full report. The full report can be found on the ITRC website:

Prevalence of Types of Identity Theft Crimes: Financial identity theft crimes were reported by 78% of the respondents, 2% reported criminal cases only, and 2% reported governmental issues only. The rest were combination cases: financial and criminal (7%), financial and governmental (9%), and a mixture of all three types (3%).

Uses of victim information: More than one-half (57%) of the 2007 sample reported their personal information had been used to open a new line of credit in their name. 13% of all respondents noted their information was used for obtaining new cable and/or utility services. (Table 2) It should be noted, check fraud and debit card fraud are increasing. The ITRC continues to predict that criminals will turn to other types of identity theft when it becomes more difficult to open new lines of credit. This may indicate changes due to the sampling taken.

*Costs to Victim: Respondents in 2007 spent an average of $550.39 in out-of-pocket expenses for damage done to an existing account. In reference to new accounts, respondents spent an average of $1,865.27 compared to $1,342 in 2006.

*Cost to Business: In 2007, the average loss in goods and services to businesses, as reported by survey respondents, was $48,941 compared to $87,303 in 2006. Six individuals exceeded $100,000, with one in excess of $700,000. This study only includes respondents who contacted the ITRC in 2007 and is not necessarily indicative of a national business loss average.

*Victim Hours Repairing Damage: In The Aftermath 2007, victims reported spending an average of 116 hours repairing the damage done by identity theft to an existing account used or taken over by the thief. Answers included 6,000, 8,640, and 5 years of time (outliers). In cases where a new account was created, respondents reported an average of 158 hours to clean up the mess with outliers of "endless" and "too many to count."

*Extended involvement: In 2007, 70% of victims indicated that it took up to 12 months to clear issues of all misinformation, compared to 50% in 2006. A moderate amount of victims (12%) took one to two years. Unfortunately, some 19% indicated that it took two or more years to resolve their case.

*Response by Creditors, Utilities and Collection Agencies: As in previous years, credit issuers, utility companies and collection agencies continue to rate poorly in their handling of identity theft victims.

* Inability to Clear Negative Records: Credit agencies, either by putting negative information back in records (31%) or not removing it in the first place (32%), topped the list of reasons for victims' inability to clear their records. Other prominent responses include Social Security Number tied to another person's file (22%) and victims' fraud alerts ignored (19%). An increase was also seen in the sale of credit accounts even though the fraudulent account was cleared by the creditor and the inability to get proof even with a police report.

*Unexpected secondary effects: Victims reported a number of additional problems including: increases in insurance rates, current credit card interest rates and criminal records not being cleared. The inability to get credit resonated with the majority of respondents (64%). In addition, 53% have collection agencies still calling, 27% had credit cards cancelled (even though the accounts were being properly maintained), 18% said it affected their ability to get a job, and 14% reported tenancy issues.

* Emotional Impact: Few significant positive changes have occurred in the feelings of victims and in terms of reported victim symptomology. More than 49% of the respondents reported stressed family life, 22% felt betrayed by unsupportive family members and friends, and 23% said their family didn't understand.

The strongest feelings expressed were: rage or anger, betrayal, unprotected by police, personal financial fears, sense of powerlessness, sense they were grieving, annoyed, frustrated, exhausted, sleep disturbances, an inability to trust people, and the desire to give up and stop fighting the system. Long term emotional responses included: suicidal, feeling captive, ready to give up and felt that they have lost everything.


First six days of June, bring 6 "reported" data breaches:

AT&T - [2008-06-04]
(Stolen laptop exposes employee names, salary and Social Security numbers)

Medisure - [2008-06-04]
(Tapes stolen containing thousands of employee names, addresses and medical details)

Canadian Canola Growers Association - [2008-06-04]
(Stolen laptop contains social insurance numbers and bank account numbers of 32,000)

Oregon State University - [2008-06-03]
(Online orders of as many as 4,700 possibly compromised)

Connecticut Department of Labor - [2008-06-02]
(Documents containing names, addresses and Social Security numbers of about 2,100 lost)

Walter Reed Army Medical Center - [2008-06-02]
(Personal information including Social Security numbers found on "non-secure computer network")

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