San Diego, CA. - The Federal Trade Commission today
released a survey showing that 8.3 million American
adults, or 3.7 percent of all American adults, were
victims of identity theft in 2005. Of the victims, 3.2
million, or 1.4 percent of all adults, experienced
misuse of their existing credit card accounts; 3.3
million, or 1.5 percent, experienced misuse of
non-credit card accounts; and 1.8 million victims, or
0.8 percent, found that new accounts were opened or
other frauds were committed using their personal
"Whether you're from Malibu or Manhattan, Tacoma or
Tallahassee, no one is immune to identity theft," said
Lydia B. Parnes, Director of the FTC's Bureau of
Consumer Protection. "The important thing is that people
learn how to deter identity thieves, detect suspicious
activity on their financial records, and defend against
the crime, should it happen."
The survey found that the costs associated with identity
theft varied widely. The survey first looked at the
value of the goods or services that the thieves obtained
using the victims' personal information. In at least
half of all incidents, thieves obtained goods or
services worth $500 or less. In 10 percent of cases,
however, thieves got at least $6,000 worth of goods or
The survey also gathered information about victims'
out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the theft of their
identities. In more than half of the incidents, victims
incurred no out-of-pocket expenses. Some victims,
however, incurred substantial out-of-pocket expenses -
10 percent of all victims reported out-of-pocket
expenses of $1,200 or more.
In addition, the survey asked victims to estimate the
amount of time they spent resolving problems caused by
the theft. The median time spent resolving problems by
all victims was four hours. Ten percent of victims,
however, spent at least 55 hours resolving their
problems, and half of those spent at least 130 hours.
The survey found that thieves obtained more goods and
services - and victims spent more time and money
recovering - in cases where the thief opened new
accounts rather than only hijacking existing accounts.
Where the theft was limited to the misuse of existing
accounts, the median value of goods and services
obtained by the thieves was less than $500. Where the
thieves opened new accounts or committed other frauds,
the median value of goods and services they obtained was
Thirty-seven percent of victims reported experiencing
problems beyond the time they spent recovering and their
out-of-pocket expenses. These problems included being
harassed by debt collectors, being denied new credit,
being unable to use existing credit cards, being unable
to get loans, having their utilities cut off, being
subject to a criminal investigation or civil suit, being
arrested, and having difficulties obtaining or accessing
bank accounts. When thieves opened new accounts and
committed other frauds, victims were more than twice as
likely to report having one or more of these types of
problems than when thieves misused only existing
Seventeen percent of all ID theft victims said that
their personal information was used to open at least one
new account. The two most common types of accounts
thieves opened were telephone service accounts
(including both land-line and wireless phone accounts),
reported by eight percent of victims; and credit card
accounts, reported by seven percent of victims.
Eighty-five percent of all ID theft victims reported
that one or more of their existing accounts had been
misused, including credit card, checking, or savings
accounts; telephone service accounts; internet payment
accounts; e-mail and other internet accounts; and
medical insurance accounts.
Twelve percent of victims reported that their
information was misused in other ways. Five percent said
that their name and/or personal information was given to
the police when the thief was stopped or charged with a
crime. Three percent of victims said that the thief had
obtained medical treatment, services, or supplies using
their personal information. One percent reported that a
thief misused their personal information to rent
housing, obtain government benefits, or get a job.
Approximately 40 percent of victims whose identity theft
was limited to the misuse of existing accounts
discovered the misuse within one week of when it began.
In contrast, nearly one-quarter of victims of new
account and other frauds did not find out about the
misuse of their information until at least six months
after it started. In cases where they discovered the
misuse more quickly, victims reported lower
out-of-pocket losses and thieves obtained less.
Fifty-six percent of all victims were unable to provide
any information on how their personal information was
stolen. The 44 percent who did provide such information
included 16 percent of all victims who said that their
information was stolen by someone they knew personally.
Victims who reported a personal relationship with the
thief mentioned three types of relationships: six
percent of all victims cited family members or relatives
as the thief; eight percent cited friends, neighbors, or
in-home employees; and two percent cited someone with
whom they worked. Because most victims do not know how
their information was compromised, these numbers may
under-represent the actual percentage of victims who had
a personal relationship with the individual who stole
"Consumers have great tools at their disposal in their
fight against identity thieves," Parnes said. "For
example, the law gives every consumer the right to get
their credit report for free once every 12 months from
each of the three national credit reporting companies
(see AnnualCreditReport.com) Monitoring your credit
report periodically is one valuable way to check for
activity that you didn't authorize. Another tool is
FTC.gov/idtheft, a Web site chock full of practical
information for consumers, businesses entrusted with
consumer data, and law enforcers who prosecute the
The FTC has issued a publication, "To Buy or Not To Buy:
Identity Theft Spawns New Products and Services To Help
Minimize Risks," to help consumers evaluate whether they
should initiate fraud alerts or credit freezes or invest
in identity theft products and services such as credit
monitoring that are for sale.
The study was conducted through interviews using a
random-digit-dialing sampling methodology. A total of
4,917 telephone interviews were conducted between March
27 and June 11, 2006.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent,
deceptive, and unfair business Practices and to provide
information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file
a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the complaint
page or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet,
telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related
complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online
database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal
law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Get
free information on a variety of consumer topics.
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Bureau of Consumer Protection
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation). The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org). CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed. In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.
The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org. Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G, a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.