Identity Fraud in U.S. Reaches All-Time High, Study Finds

Fraudsters successfully hit a record 15.4 million Americans in 2016, up 16% from the year prior, according to the new 2017 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research.

By SSI Staff · February 3, 2017

STAMFORD, Conn. — The latest Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research found that the number of identity theft victims in the United States has increased to the highest number since the firm began tracking fraud in 2003.

The number of identity fraud victims increased by 16% in 2016, rising to 15.4 million U.S. consumers. Despite increased efforts to thwart identity theft, fraudsters successfully adapted to net an additional two million victims last year, with the amount of money taken rising by nearly $1 billion dollars to $16 billion.

“After five years of relatively small growth or even decreases in fraud, this year’s findings drives home that fraudsters never rest and when one areas is closed, they adapt and find new approaches,” Al Pascual, senior vice president, research director, and head of fraud & security, Javelin Strategy & Research, states in a news release.

On a positive note, while fraudsters were better at evading detection, consumers with an online presence were getting better at detecting fraud quicker which led to less stolen overall per attempt.

The 2017 Identity Fraud Study uncovered four significant trends:

  • Fraud leaps to a record high incidence — In 2016, 6.15% of consumers became victims of identity theft, an increase by almost 2 million victims from the previous year. The incidence rate jumped by 16% from 2015, the highest incidence since Javelin began tracking identity fraud.
  • Card-not-present (CNP) fraud rises significantly — Driven by closing opportunities for point-of-sale fraud and the growth of e- and m-commerce, fraudsters are increasingly moving online, dramatically increasing the prevalence of CNP fraud by 40%.
  • Account takeover (ATO) bounces back — After reaching a low point in 2014, both account takeover incidence and losses rose notably in 2016. Total ATO losses reached $2.3 billion, a 61% increase from 2015, while incidence rose 31%.
  • New-account fraud (NAF) continues unabated — As Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) cards and terminals continue to permeate the U.S. Point-of-Sale (POS) environment, fraudsters shift to fraudulently opening accounts that allow them.

According to Javelin, identity theft and fraud is defined as the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information to achieve illicit financial gain. Identity theft and fraud can range from simply using a stolen payment card account, to making a fraudulent purchase, to taking control of existing accounts or opening new accounts.

In 2016, Javelin conducted a survey of 5,028 U.S. consumers to assess the impact of identity theft and fraud, uncover where fraudsters are making progress, explore the actions and behaviors of consumers and how they relate to identity theft and fraud risk levels, and identify segments of consumers most affected by identity theft and fraud.

The annual analysis of identity theft and fraud trends by Javelin Strategy & Research is said to be the nation’s longest-running study of identity fraud with 69,000 respondents surveyed since 2003.

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