Security Experts:

Identity Fraud Cost U.S. Consumers $16 billion in 2014

Identity thieves were busy during 2014, but a new study estimates that U.S. consumers actually suffered fewer losses than in the past.

According to the 2015 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of identity fraud victims decreased slightly last year, dropping by three percent from 2013. All totaled, Javelin estimates 12.7 million U.S. consumers were victimized in identity theft in 2014, compared to 13.1 million the previous year. Total fraud losses fell as well, dropping from $18 billion in 2013 to $16 billion in 2014.

In another bright spot in the report, new account fraud – where a scammer opens a new account in the name of the victim – appears to have hit a record low in 2014. The good news does not go much further than that however. The report also found that victims of new account fraud are three times more likely to take a year or more to discover that their identities were misused than victims of other types of fraud.

Additionally, while incidents of identity fraud may have declined, they had a lasting impact on the spending habits of some of the victims. According to the survey, 28 percent of the 5,000 people surveyed said they avoided merchants after being victims of fraud. In addition, individuals whose credit or debit cards were breached in the past year were nearly three times more likely to be an identity fraud victim.

While students were the least concerned about fraud, Javelin found students were actually the most impacted. Though 64 percent said they were unconcerned with fraud, the group reported feeling more impact when fraud occurred, with 15 percent classifying it as moderate or severe. Students are also the least likely to detect identity fraud themselves. Some 22 percent said they were notified of the situation by a debt collector or when they were denied credit, three times higher than the average fraud victim.

"Despite the headlines, the occurrence of identity fraud hasn’t changed much over the past year, and it is still a significant problem," said Al Pascual, director of fraud & security, Javelin Strategy & Research, in a statement. "Consumers, financial institutions and retailers are all taking aggressive steps, yet we must remain vigilant. The criminals will continue to find new ways to commit fraud, so taking advantage of available technology and services to protect against, detect and resolve identity fraud is a must for all individuals and corporations."

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