What is Identity Theft? - Statistics

The term Identity Theft relates to a crime where the perpetrator of the act attains basic types of particular information, such as driver's license, credit card or Social Security numbers for the purpose of fraudulently assuming a pretense of another individual to either steal funds from existing accounts or use the information to set up new accounts that will be utilized once the stolen credentials are in place.

This stolen data, when successfully obtained can be used to run up charges on credit cards by purchasing merchandise and services under the victim's name. This type of the crime is termed an account takeover. It can also provide the holder of the false credentials the ability to use them for purposes of illegal identification such as immigration matters, as well as filing false tax returns. Checks issued by the IRS can be cashed, or the proceeds rerouted to a pre-arranged bank account. In the case of a tax refund, the imposter can also have the IRS send the funds to a debit card, allowing the proceeds to easily be converted to cash. Additionally, the perpetrator will often change a victim's mailing address so that any charges that are amassed are never supplied to their actual address for examination.

The second type of this crime is termed true name identity theft. This form of the crime demonstrates that the imposter used the personal information that was stolen to open new accounts of varying types. The most obvious of these new accounts to be opened would be for banking accounts and new credit cards. Opening new checking accounts would allow the thief to access blank checks as well as new debit cards. It is not uncommon for the thief to establish personal accounts such as cell phone and other services which would allow them to pay for goods as well as their own personal expenses.     

The statistics regarding identity theft are shocking. In 2012 victims of the crime cost almost twenty-five billion dollars in losses. In the age group beginning at sixteen years, close to seventeen million U.S. residents were victimized by the crime.  That statistic breaks down to approximately seven percent of the group as a whole. The two chief types of the thefts were related to bank accounts and credit card exploitation.

As is the case with other numerous categories of fraud, Florida leads the nation in the rate of reported and prosecuted cases of this type according to the Federal Trade Commission with a little more than 3.6 complaints per thousand residents in 2013. And in the Miami Dade County area, the figure jumps to almost 6.5 complaints per 1000. According to the Associated Press, statewide, there were 76,700 victims who were involved in identity theft crimes and a staggering $449 Million in fraudulent claims.

Throughout the nation the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations (CI) released statistics stating that since 2011, investigations introduced, prosecutions initiated, Informations or Indictments handed down as well as guilty pleas and convictions have rose over five hundred percent. Whereas eighty individuals were sentenced for either identity theft or tax refund fraud in 2011, four hundred thirty-eight were sentenced last year. Similarly, there were two hundred seventy-six investigations into the crime in 2011 while the figure jumps to almost fifteen hundred in 2013.