The number of identity theft victims rose 22% to a record 9.9 million in 2008, up from 8.1 million in 2007.
While losses and subsequent consumer costs have decreased due to increased protections, the overall number and percentage of ID theft victims continues to rise. As indicated in the graph below, 4.32% of Americans, or about one in 23 adults, were victims of identity theft in 2008.
One Javelin spokesman cites the worsening economy as one reason for the spike in identity theft cases—”Criminals are getting more desperate.”
Javelin researchers said most thefts resulted from:
- Lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks or credit cards
- Information stolen in the home by friends, relatives and in-home employees
- Mail theft from an unlocked mailbox
- Data breaches at any agency that maintains access to private information
- Dumpster diving for unshredded information from the trash
According to this study, of the 35% of identity theft victims who knew how their data was taken, the majority was from traditional methods articulated above, and not cyber high-tech methods as is often erroneously believed. As such, the best defense against identity theft is to protect your physical information, which in practice means (1) use a secure locking mailbox; and (2) use a cross-cut paper shredder.