The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has a sobering new report finding identity theft cost Americans $10 billion more last year than all other property crimes measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey.
While identity theft cost Americans $24.7 billion in 2012, losses for household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and property theft totaled just $14 billion.
The BJS report measures both direct and indirect losses tied to identity theft. Direct losses, the majority of the $24.7 billion, consisted of the money thieves got by misusing a victim's personal info or account information. Indirect losses included other costs associated with identity theft — like legal fees and bounced checks.
The BJS's last report on identity theft, for the year 2010, measured just direct losses and put them at $13.1 billion. While that report didn't measure indirect losses, a separate research firm called Javelin Strategy and Research found this year that identity thefts are indeed on the rise.
Here are some key points from the BJS report:
- 85% of theft incidents involved the fraudulent use of existing accounts, rather than the use of somebody's name to open a new account.
- People whose names were used to open new accounts were more likely to experience financial hardship, emotional distress, and even problems with their relationships, than people whose existing accounts were manipulated.
- Half of identity theft victims lost $100 or more.
- Americans who were in households making $75,000 or more were more likely to experience identity theft than lower-income households.
While the majority of victims spent a day or less resolving the issue, identity theft can also be a drawn-out nightmare. A dramatic instance of ID theft occurred after a man named David B. Dahlstrom lost his wallet in Utah back in 1985. For the next 17 years, a German immigrant named Yorck A. Rogge masqueraded as Dahlstrom, The New York Times in 2007.
The real Dahlstrom was denied a credit card and even received an insurance claim for an accident he had nothing to do with.
In more recent years, identity thieves have begun targeting smartphone users and people who use social media and aren't cautious about that use, experts told Reuters in 2012.
Javelin Strategy & Research found that year that someone whose information is revealed as part of an online data breach becomes 9.5 times more likely to have their identity stolen.
Join the conversation about this story »