Nearly 18 million people – or about seven percent of the U.S. adult population – were victims of identity theft last year, according to "Victims of Identity Theft, 2014," a newly released report from the Department of Justice (DoJ) that gathered data from the 2014 Identity Theft Supplement (ITS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).
The preponderance of attacks came via credit cards and bank accounts. The toll is a gain of one million victims from figures reported by the DoJ in 2012.
But, the news may not be as bad as it seems. The vast majority of victims, some 16.4 million, suffered from an unauthorized misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account, as opposed to the outright theft of personally identifiable information used to open lines of credit or siphon money out of a bank account.
The report also found that the average money lost per incident fell from $4,804 to $2,895, and many losses were significantly lower, with the median loss unchanged from 2012 at $100.
In total, an estimated 8.6 million consumers were hit by fraudulent use of a credit card, 8.1 million suffered from unauthorized or attempted use of existing bank accounts, and 1.5 million were victimized by other varieties of existing account theft, such as misuse or attempted misuse of a phone, online or insurance account.
While the DOJ report detected that women were victimized slightly more often than men, ID theft was dispersed among all age groups, races and income levels. However, the figure for seniors aged 65 or older jumped 20 percent (to 2.6 million people) and households with an annual income of $75,000-plus were victimized more often (11 percent) than those in other income brackets.
Although a third of victims (1.7 million) described their experiences as “severely distressing,” the report also indicated that half of those hit by ID theft last year resolved problems in a day or less.
That might be owing to the fact that financial institutions have increased their monitoring of customer accounts, according to the report. Nearly half of those affected reported they were notified by their bank or card company of suspicious charges.In total, the DoJ said the total financial loss owing to ID theft in 2014 was $15.4 billion, a big drop from the $24.7 billion reported in 2012.