The Real People Behind Identity Theft Statistics


Eva Velasquez
President and CEO, Identity Theft Resource Center

Data breaches and identity theft continue to impact both businesses and consumers significantly. This year alone (as of November 2, 2018), there have been 1,027 data breaches which exposed more than 57,667,911 million records. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also reported in their March 2018 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book that they received 1.1 million reports of fraud and 371,000 reports of identity theft in 2017.

It’s important to remember that these statistics are more than just numbers. The victims of identity theft are your teachers, your neighbors and even your family members – real people dealing with the emotional and downstream implications of theft as they try to reclaim their identity.

The ITRC recently released the initial findings of The Aftermath®: The Non-Economic Impacts of Identity Theft victim impact survey, which is based on input from victims who contacted them for assistance in 2017. The survey findings examine the effects of identity theft on victims beyond the known financial threats. Though the emotional, socio-economic and physiological effects are not as easy to quantify as the financial costs, they can often be more significant. These other costs have very real impacts on how a victim relates to and can resolve his or her situation as much, if not more than, a monetary amount.

Here are some key highlights from the Aftermath survey that shed light on the multitude of impacts identity theft victims face:

  • Of the victims who responded, 21% stated they were previously victims of identity theft. So, almost one-quarter of victims are dealing with it for at least a second time.

  • As seen in previous years, the emotional impacts of identity crime have left victims with overwhelmingly negative feelings. Respondents reported that they felt worried, angry and frustrated (each at 85.71%); violated (83.7%); unsafe (69.4%); a sense of powerlessness or helplessness (67.3%); sad or depressed (59.2%) and betrayed (55.1%).

  • Identity theft can weigh on victims’ emotions and even their health. Many respondents experienced negative emotional impacts that led to real physical issues, including 77.3% who reported increased stress levels and 54.5% who experienced increased fatigue or decreased energy.

  • Victims also indicated that they feel they’re not getting the proper support from professionals who are supposed to be helping them. Many of those surveyed were somewhat or very dissatisfied with credit issuers and financial institutions (46%), credit reporting agencies (43.1%), the Federal Trade Commission (42.82%) and law enforcement (36.66%).

  • Nearly half (46%) of those surveyed said their identity theft led them to feel like they couldn’t trust family and 55% said they subsequently had issues trusting friends.

Trust issues extend to organizations as well. With the vast amount of information compromised by data breaches, consumers are losing trust in companies and becoming fatigued in securing their information. Additionally, when an identity theft victim feels their case gets mismanaged, their feelings of distrust, anger, frustration and helplessness can easily be attributed to the identity theft remediation process. As fraud professionals, we can provide assistance to help them clear up the theft, show empathy throughout the process and help empower people to take back control of their data.

Victimization happens for months or years after identity theft and as a victim tries to regain their identity, as well as their dignity. In the end, victims often feel abused by the thief as well as the organizations that they have to interact with to resolve the issue because of the hoops they must jump through to get complete resolution.

No other crime requires a victim to report it, tell their story and keep track of a multitude of different organizations that are handling the various occurrences. We wouldn’t ask victims of violent crime to do these things, but it happens to cybercrime and identity crime victims as a regular part of the resolution process.

It's essential for fraud professionals to understand the issues that victims of identity theft deal with so they can provide the proper support. The ITRC has online resources and victim assistance to help along the way.

Also, hear more about the ITRC’s Aftermath survey in my podcast interview the ACFE.