A new study from Javelin Strategy & Research has found that both the fraud rate and the amount of money lost to fraud decreased this year.
A new study from Javelin Strategy & Research has found that both the fraud rate and the amount of money lost to fraud decreased this year.

Both the number of U.S. victims of identity fraud and the total losses due to fraud decreased this year, with 12.7 million people's losses totaling $16 billion, a new study has found.

As compared to last year, the number of victims of identity fraud decreased by three percent and the amount lost decreased by 11 percent. Javelin Strategy & Research surveyed 5,000 U.S. adults on fraud incidence rates and detection for its “2015 Identity Fraud Study,” which it released this past week.

The drop in identity fraud could be related to “combined efforts of industry, consumers and monitoring and protection systems that are catching fraud more quickly,” said Al Pascual, director of fraud and security at Javelin, in emailed comments to SCMagazine.com.

Of those affected by various fraud forms, students and military personnel were hit the hardest by new-account fraud (NAF). Military personnel, in particular, have a 28 percent higher rate of NAF than all consumers. The report attributes this unusually high rate to the “casual user of sensitive PII for everything from gym memberships to linking health records.”

Meanwhile, students are also more likely to be victims of “familiar” fraud, or fraud committed by people they know.

“Friends, dorm-mates, and others see their personally identifiable information laying around and can steal it to open these accounts,” Pascual said. “They also are not monitoring their credit history and finances closely. They are the least likely to detect identity fraud themselves.”

Nearly a quarter of students were alerted to their being a victim of identity fraud by a debt collector or when denied credit, which is three times higher than an average fraud victim.

Even after fraud has been detected and addressed, 56 percent of student fraud victims said they would avoid certain merchants after the incident, and 28 percent of general fraud victims said the same. Of the 28 percent, 22 percent said they would avoid large retailers, including Target or Home Depot, which is more than double in 2013.

“Retailers should take this seriously, whether they are or not now,” Pascual said. “Large retailers were the top source for compromised personally identifiable information in 2014.”

Although Pascual noted that the industry's responses and detection of fraud is improving, as evidenced by lowering rates of fraud, he said that user vigilance is essential.

Only make purchases on secure networks, he advised, and keep all software up-to-date.