Both the number of identity theft victims and the amount of money stolen by identity thieves decreased slightly in 2014, but that doesn't mean merchants can relax their protections on customer payment card data, according to a report released today by Javelin Strategy & Research.
According to the study, individuals whose card data was exposed in a data breach were three times more likely to become victims of identity fraud. Plus, 28 percent of those victims said that, after the breach, they avoided the merchants that had failed to protect their personal information.
The Javelin study, in its 12th year, calculates that 12.7 million individuals were victims of identity theft in 2014 (a 3 percent decrease from the previous year), two-thirds of whom had received data breach notifications. In total, $16 billion was stolen from them -- $1,260 per person, on average -- which is an 11 percent decrease.
It may have decreased, but it hasn't gone away. Identity theft complaints topped the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) list for the 15th year in a row, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, released by the FTC Friday. Thirteen percent of the 2.6 million complaints received by the FTC -- either directly, or via law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations and non-governmental organizations -- were related to identity theft.
Another top complaint (which moved up to number three on the FTC's list) was "imposter scams" -- cons and attacks in which the perpetrators claimed to represent the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies.
One dubious positive from the Javelin study is that account fraud -- meaning, a new credit account is opened with the victim's name -- hit an all time low. Simple, straightforward theft was more common. Account fraud continues to be one of the costliest types of attack, and also takes the longest to detect. According to Javelin, account fraud is three times more likely to take a year or more to discover than other types of identity theft.
Florida, Washington, and Oregon reported the most identity theft complaints, according to the FTC. The Javelin study found that the population hit hardest by it in 2014 was students -- who were also the least concerned about identity theft and least likely to discover it on their own.