A recently published consumer report is advocating the general idea that identity theft is a diminishing crime and that most services offered to protect consumers hold little, if any, value. The trouble is, their research in many places is superficial and/or incomplete, and in some places completely irrelevant. It seems as though for a piece regarding the existence of identity theft, the experts who provided opinions on the topics, were not experts in identity theft at all.
All major federal agencies that have anything to do with identity theft have universally said that incidence of identity theft are getting worse, not better. That includes organizations like the FBI, FTC, and DOJ. According to the same Department of Justice study that is cited in questionable pieces includes the statement, “in 2010 about 7% of households in the US (about 8.6 million) had at least one member age 12 or older who had experienced one or more types of identity theft victimization.” While that is a slight decrease from the 2009 number of 7.3%, it should not be overlooked that the overall trend is still very much an upward one.
According to the aforementioned study only 5.5% (about 6.4 million households) experienced this same type of victimization in 2005. It should be noted that 2010 is the first year that any decrease can be seen anywhere in the numbers over the last five years.
Further, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal agency most responsible for monitoring identity theft activity in the United States, found that identity theft has been the top complaint from consumers in their annual survey for the past eleven years running. These are not merely concerns being expressed mind you. These numbers have nothing to do with subjective fears which can be influenced by paranoia and outside influences, but are actual complaints, i.e. incidents of identity theft being reported.
As the Victim Advisors at the ITRC have dealt with victims of criminal identity theft almost every day for the last ten plus years, we feel somewhat more qualified to talk about this issue from a truly “expert” perspective. Anecdotally, I can tell you that I speak with a victim of criminal identity theft nearly every single day. For something that “doesn’t happen a lot,” it sure happens a lot, and to those who have to go through it, it means a lot to have someone on their side helping them through it.