Breach, Data Security

ID theft instances down, cost per incident up: Javelin

Despite a nationwide decline, identity theft is still a major concern of consumers because criminals have become more creative in how they steal personal information, according to a report released Monday by Javelin Strategy and Research.

The firm's “2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report” disclosed that identity theft declined 12 percent in the United States last year, a drop of $6 billion. However, ID theft still accounted for a loss of $45 billion during 2007.

The report also disclosed that over the past three years, criminals have obtained the majority of stolen personal information from belongings and telephone calls, not the web or email.

The October 2007 telephone survey of 5,000 consumers attributed several factors to the decline, including increased consumer vigilance and awareness, more frequent monitoring of financial account activity and better corporate management of personal information.

Although fraud declined, the cost of individual ID theft cases rose by 25 percent to $691 per incident, according to Javelin.

Jim Van Dyke, president and founder of Javelin Research, told on Monday that ID theft cases are often the fault of the victims themselves.

"Individuals themselves often leave information exposed," he said. "Our data shows that in 70 percent of cases in which personal information was the cause of the exposure, the exposed information was under the consumer's control."

ID thieves are also targeting their victims with low-tech media, such as the telephone, in “vishing” attacks, as ID theft through mail and telephone transactions jumped from three percent of all incidents in 2006 to 40 percent last year.

Consumers' age often defines how they react to ID theft schemes, according to the report. Young adults who are victimized by ID theft are likely to purchase insurance and sign up for fraud alerts; older adults who fall victim often react by sending bill payments and checks only via secure mailboxes, such as those at the post office.

The Javelin findings concur with those of a similar survey on ID theft from the Federal Trade Commission in November of last year. That report indicated that the number of adult ID theft victims had dropped from 10 million in 2003 to 8.3 million in 2005.

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