Crime and Justice  
Breaking Down the Latest Increases in Identity Theft

By Suzette Lohmeyer
July 9, 2010

New data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show identity theft on the rise, with a 23 percent increase from 2005-2007.

The latest National Crime Victimization Survey, released this week by the BJS,shows that for 2007, 6.6 percent of all households in the U.S. had at least one victim of identity theft - up from 5.5 percent in 2005.

According to the BJS, identity theft is the "unauthorized use or attempted use of a credit card, existing accounts, misuse of personal information, or multiple types at the same time." Of those, the number of victims of multiple forms of identity theft grew the most, with a 37 percent increase from 2005 to 2007. That was followed by credit card theft with a 31 percent increase, and then by unauthorized use of accounts including bank, checking or debit and cellular phone accounts.

Identity theft is one of two cybercrimes included in a short list of crime and justice measures suggested to State of the USA by criminal justice expert Henry H. Brownstein.

Percent Change In Number of Households In Which
At Least One Member Was a Victim Of One
or More Types Of Identity Theft, 2005 and 2007

All Forms of
Identity Theft
Existing CreditCard
Other Existing
Multiple Types in
Same Episode

Percent Change in Households Victimized

Identity theft using 'Personal Information' decreased by 4.8% from 2005 to 2007. There were 1,031,200 households affected out of a total of 119,503,500 households in the U.S. for 2007. An estimated 0.90% of all households were affected for 2007.

Data Source: Report: Identity Theft Reported By Households, 2007 (PDF) Bureau of Justice Statistics

Here are highlights of the age, race and income demographics of who got hit by identity theft, and financial loss statistics via the BJS Report:

  • Households headed by individuals age 65 or older were less likely than any other age groups to be victims of attempted or successful identity theft. Those households headed by those in the 18-24 age group were most likely to be victims.
  • A lower percentage of Hispanic households (5.2%) experienced identity theft or attempted identity theft than non-Hispanic households (6.8%)
  • Households with incomes of $75,000 or more experienced a higher rate of identity theft than households in lower income brackets.
  • Single-person households were less likely or somewhat less likely to experience identity theft than households with two or more people age 12 or older.
  • Married heads of households had a higher rate of identity theft than unmarried heads of households.
  • In 2007, 32% of households victimized by identity theft reported a financial loss of $500 or more.
  • Households experiencing the theft of personal information were more than twice as likely as households with thefts of credit cards, other existing accounts, or multiple types to report that no money was lost due to the identity theft.
  • Among households experiencing the misuse of personal information, those with a financial loss reported an average household loss of $5,650.
  • Across all victimized households reporting a financial loss, the average amount lost per household was $1,830.

(BJS Report: Identity Theft Reported by Households, 2007-Statistical Tables)

Suzette Lohmeyer is a staff writer and producer for State of the USA.

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