Find out more about the nation's fastest growing crime


Find out more about the nation's fastest growing crime.

More than ever, the information explosion, aided by an era of easy credit, has led to the expansion of a crime that feeds on the inability of consumers to control who has access to sensitive information and how it is safeguarded. That crime is identity theft.

Please note: ITRC's 2003 study: Identity Theft- The Aftermath -2003 is now out. It is filled with information and was co-written with Dr. Dale Pletcher (CSU Sacramento, Economics Dept. (click to study)

Identity theft remains the #1 concern among consumers contacting the Federal Trade Commission. Their fears are not unfounded. The facts on identity theft speak for themselves.

  • According to 2 studies done in July 2003 (Gartner Research and Harris Interactive), approximately 7 million people became victims of identity theft in the prior 12 months. That equals 19,178 per day, 799 per hour, 13.3 per minute.
  • The incidence of victimization increased 11-20% between 2001-2002 and 80% between 2002 -2003 (Harris Interactive). This same study found that 91% of respondents do not see an "end to the tunnel" and expect a heavy increase in victimization. 49% also stated that they do not feel they know how to adequately protect themselves from this crime.
  • The new ITRC study, Identity Theft: The Aftermath, reveals the following

1. Victims now spend an average of 600 hours recovering from this crime, often over a period of years. Three years ago the average was 175 hours of time*, representing an increase of about 2470%.

2. Based on 600 hours times the indicated victim wages, this equals nearly $16,000 in lost potential or realized income.

3. While victims are finding out about the crime more quickly, it is taking far longer than ever before to clear their records and recover from the situation.

4. Even after the thief stops using the information, victims struggle with the impact of identity theft. That might include increased insurance or credit card fees, inability to find a job, higher interest rates and battling collection agencies and issuers who refuse to clear records despite substantiating evidence of the crime. This "tail" may continue for more than 10 years after the crime was first discovered.

5. Based on the ITRC study, today the business community loses between $40,000 - $92,000 per name in fraudulent charges, based on reported fraud losses seen by surveyed victims. While this conflicts with other findings by other groups, there was a wide range of responses by the ITRC study respondents. The answer is that we may never know the true financial impact of this crime due to mis-classification of identity theft crime definitions by the business community and by victims.

6. The emotional impact on victims is likened to that felt by victims of more violent crime, including rape, violent assault and repeated battering. Some victims feel dirty, defiled, ashamed and embarrassed, and undeserving of assistance. Others report a split with a significant other or spouse and of being unsupported by family members.

7. Today victims spend an average of $1,400 in out-of-pocket expenses, an increase of 85% from years past.

8. Approximately 85% of victims found out about the crime due to an adverse situation - denied credit or employment, notification by police or collection agencies, receipt of credit cards or bills never ordered, etc. Only 15% found out through a positive action taken by a business group that verified a submitted application or a reported change of address.

9. Victims report a lack of responsiveness from those entities to whom they turned for help similar to results reported in 2000*. These include police, collection agencies, credit issuers, utility companies and financial institutions.

  • A GAO study on identity theft (GAO-02-363, issued March 2002) discussed costs to federal agencies -- The executive office for U.S. Attorneys estimated cost of prosecuting a white-collar crime case was $11,443. The Secret Service estimates the average cost per financial crime investigation is $15,000.The FBI estimates the average cost per financial crime investigation is $20,000
  • A preliminary study done by ITRC shows that the majority of id theft criminals are repeat offenders. Other convictions include substance abuse, narcotic trafficking, violent crime, robbery and immigration issues.
  • The average arrest rate (according to law enforcement) is under 5% of all reported cases by victims.
  • The 2002 FTC Annual Report revealed the following: (
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  • Top 10 locations in # of victims (in order): Washington D.C., California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida, New York, Washington, Maryland, Oregon

* Study done in 2000- Nowhere to Turn, done by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and CalPIRG. Found at Revised 9-03