Incidents of US identity theft grew 13 percent last year
Javelin Strategy & Research recently released findings of a new study regarding the scope of identity theft in the United States. According to the study, more than 11.6 million American adults were victims of such incidents last year, increasing by 13 percent compared to 2010. But the monetary impact of these events remained relatively similar.
"While identity fraud incidence increased last year, it is becoming less profitable for fraudsters," said Javelin president and founder James Van Dyke. "Consumers, the financial services industry, law enforcement and government agencies are stopping fraud earlier and making new account fraud more difficult to perpetrate."
To prevent identity theft, people are encouraged to control their use of mobile and social technologies, both of which can expose vulnerabilities. In fact, 7 percent of smartphone owners experienced fraud last year, one-third higher than general public events, according to the research firm.
Online security breaches also played a key role in the growth in fraud. The study revealed that the number of Americans impacted by cyberattacks increased 67 percent in 2011. Victims of such incidents are nearly 10 times more likely to suffer identity theft than those who have not experienced a breach.
Javelin noted that password management is key to defend against scams.
"At home, at work and on your mobile devices, secure your personal and financial records in a locked storage device or behind a password," the organization stated. "Of those consumers who knew how the crimes were committed, nine percent of all identity fraud crimes were committed by someone previously known to the victim in 2011. Avoid mailing checks to pay bills or to deposit funds in your banking account."
Despite growing identity theft concerns, many people are not using proper password practices. According to a recent study conducted by PrivacyGuard, nearly 90 percent of survey participants said they are fearful of sharing data with a company because of the impact a potential breach can have on their personal information. However, only 31 percent of respondents said they have a unique password for each online account.
Experts agree that password manager software can help prevent sensitive information from falling into the hands of criminals. With such solutions, passwords are constantly changed so there is no clear pattern that hackers can decipher.