We’ve got some bad news for you: identity theft is much worse than you think.
It happens much more often than you can imagine. And, even worse, most people don’t even know that they’ve fallen victim to identity theft until 3 months after it’s happened. Some don’t even find out about it until 3 years after their personal data has been stolen.
Identity theft also leads to problems later on related to low credit scores – which can lead to not getting loans, apartments, or even certain jobs. But knowing is the first step for prevention. That’s why today, we’ll be looking at the most alarming identity theft statistics of 2019 and how to avoid having your identity stolen.
A quick look at identity theft numbers
- More than 1 million children fell victim to identity theft fraud
- 66% of child victims were younger than 7
- Credit card fraud increased by 24% in 2018 compared to 2017
- There were 1,244 data breaches in 2018, a whopping 126% increase over 2017
- Victims can take 3 months to 3 years to find that their data has been stolen
- 791 million US identities were stolen (bigger than the US population), meaning that victims had their identities stolen multiple times
Child identity theft is becoming a massive problem
Yes, they’re targeting kids now.
One of the most surprising things from 2019’s identity theft statistics is that criminals have now started to target the identities of children. A major study by the research agency Javelin Strategy & Research found that over 1 million minors had fallen victim to identity theft over the past year, and 66% of those were aged under 7.
The reason cybercriminals are targeting children now? Because of something known as “synthetic identities,” where criminals can take a minor’s identity and load them up with credit card debt. This is leading to the social security numbers of many children being tainted by debt without them knowing it – causing major issues as they enter adult life.
That’s why we always recommend you use a VPN, such as NordVPN, whenever you go online, especially because you can use it on simultaneous devices. We’ll go more in-depth later on, but the important thing to know is that VPNs encrypt your data so that no one can steal your information. That way, you can protect your whole family in one go.
The majority of identity theft examples occur in middle aged adults
The vast majority of identity fraud examples affected adults, and in particular those aged 31-59. Identity theft statistics released by the FTC found that between 2014 and 2016, the rate reported by those aged 31-59 actually rose from 57% of cases to 61%.
This seems to suggest that people who should know better are falling victim to identity theft more, even though public awareness is increasing. This is most likely because thieves are becoming much more sophisticated in how they attack you to steal your data.
Data breaches are a huge identity theft issue
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 2018 was a banner year for mass data breaches, with 1,244 major incidents across the US, representing a 126% increase in total breaches and a massive 226% increase in the number of individual records released.
One of the most well-known recent examples involved the credit company Equifax, which leaked 143 million social security numbers and details about customers’ credit histories. It’s not alone. From the potential exposure of 1.5 billion WhatsApp users to Bodybuilding.com’s online store leaking 30 million users’ personal data, the cases continue to mount.
In 2018, these breaches from major companies exposed over 14 million credit card details and an incredible 158 million social security numbers.
As the ITRC reports, when people are notified of a data breach, around 32% subsequently report some form of identity theft, compared with just 3% of those not informed.
Credit card fraud is increasing, fast
Between 2016 and 2017, criminals either became much more active in targeting credit card details, or we became much less vigilant. In any case, the past couple of years have seen an alarming spike in the reported cases of credit card related identity theft.
According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, credit card fraud increased by 24% in 2018 compared to 2017, rising to almost $1 billion from US consumers alone. That’s based on documented consumer complaints, by the way, so it’s most likely very underestimated.
Identity theft statistics worldwide show that it’s a global problem
It’s no surprise that cybercriminals are stealing personal details across the world. Wherever there are internet connections, unsecured wi-fi, naive email account users and companies who don’t know how to safeguard data, these attacks are taking place. So that’s everywhere.
However, there’s no doubting that America is the global capital of identity theft. According to the analysts at Panda Security, 791 million US identities were stolen in 2016 – meaning that many people had their identities stolen multiple times.
France comes second, with 85 million thefts, which is still higher than the country’s population, but well below America’s globe-leading frequency.
Developing countries have some of the fastest rises in identity theft
Even though the US can’t be rivaled, there are some other fascinating aspects of identity theft facts from across the globe. Perhaps the most striking development is the rise of ID theft in places like Brazil, Vietnam and India. The tech sector has developed quickly in these nations, but without the necessary law enforcement and infrastructure to safeguard users.
This has allowed some nations to become hubs for cyber-criminals, providing the perfect launch pad for bot attacks against corporations anywhere in the world.
3 ways to prevent identity theft right now
The identity theft 2019 statistics and examples of mass data breaches show that this type of fraud is increasing and becoming more sophisticated. But the biggest problem is that it’s hardly being dealt with by law enforcement.
In fact, there are very few statistics about actual arrests for online identity theft, because these thieves are rarely caught. That’s why it’s more vital than ever to learn how to prevent identity theft so that you can avoid becoming a statistic in future years.
1. The easiest way to stop identity theft – use a VPN
While there are usually quite a few stops involved in making yourself more safe online, there’s one thing you can do today to virtually stop cybercriminals from stealing your data.
And that’s using a VPN.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, work by pushing all your data to different servers all around the world. But first, and most importantly, VPNs encrypt your data (usually with military-grade encryption) so that no one – not thieves, hackers, or anyone else – can see what you’re doing online.
And that is one big way to make yourself more safe online. For this, we highly recommend NordVPN or ExpressVPN so that you can get the best protection there is online.
2. Practice safety at home
Other basic steps are also crucial, such as keeping your social security card at home, being very, very cautious about giving private information to strangers, double checking all bills for suspicious activity and shredding documents.
Read more: Cybersecurity tips for parents
3. Use good behavior online, every time
But it’s also important to take steps to secure your internet account. Malware, phishing, and session hijacking can all contribute to identity theft. Phishing is the most common cybercriminal tool, and it’s crucial that you know how to avoid those criminal attempts.
We’ve already covered how to identify and avoid phishing attempts online.
As the identity theft statistics worldwide show, no one is really immune. But we can turn the tide, that’s for sure. When you use a VPN, good online behaviors and practicing safety online, you’ll avoid becoming just another statistic.