Identity Theft Surveys and Studies: How Many Identity Theft Victims Are There? What Is the Impact on Victims?

Javelin Strategy & Research Survey - February 2007

In February 2007, Javelin Strategy and Research released its 2007 Identity Fraud Survey Report. The report is issued as a longitudinal update to previous Javelin Identity Fraud Survey reports and the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) 2003 Identity Theft Survey Report.

Survey findings Include:

  • The number of US adult victims of identity fraud decreased from 10.1 million in 2003 and 9.3 million in 2005 to 8.4 million in 2007.
  • Total one year fraud amount decreased from $55.7 billion in 2006 to $49.3 billion in 2007.
  • The mean fraud amount per fraud victim decreased from $6,278 in 2006 to $5,720 in 2007.
  • The mean resolution time was at a high of 40 hours per victim in 2006 and was reduced in 2007 to 25 hours per victim. The median resolution time has remained the same for each Survey year at 5 hours per victim.

Javelin/Better Business Bureau Survey - January 2006 (no charge for Consumer Version)

In January 2006, Javelin Strategy and Research co-released its 2006 Identity Fraud Survey Report with the Better Business Bureau. The report is issued as a longitudinal update to the Javelin 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report and the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) 2003 Identity Theft Survey Report. The Consumer Version of the survey is available at no cost.

Survey findings Include:

  • The number of US adult victims of identity fraud decreased from 10.1 million in 2003 and 9.3 million in 2005 to 8.9 million in 2006.
  • Total one year fraud amount rose from $53.2 billion in 2003 and $54.4 billion in 2005 to $56.6 billion in 2006.
  • The mean fraud amount per fraud victim rose from $5,316 in 2003 and $5,993 in 2005 to $6,278 in 2006.
  • The mean resolution time is at a high of 40 hours per victim in 2006 compared to 28 hours in 2005 and 33 hours in 2003.

Javelin/Better Business Bureau Survey - January 2005

On January 26, 2005, the Better Business Bureau in conjunction with Javelin Strategy and Research released its Identity Theft survey as an update to the Federal Trade Commission's 2003 Identity Theft Survey Report. The full report is available online at

Survey findings include:

  • Within the last twelve months, 9.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft.
  • The total U.S. annual identity fraud cost remains essentially unchanged since [the FTC's] 2003 [results], at $52.6 Billion, an increase of 2.3% from the 2003 inflation-adjusted level of $51.4 Billion.
  • Most thieves still obtain personal information through traditional rather than electronic channels. In the cases where the method was known, 68.2% of information was obtained off-line versus only 11.6% obtained online.
  • Conventional methods such as through lost or stolen wallets, misappropriation by family and friends, and theft of paper mail are among the most common ways thieves gain access to information.

Recommendations for consumers include:

  • Cancel your paper bills and statements wherever possible and instead check your statements and pay bills online. Monitor your account balances and activity electronically (at least once per week).
  • If you do not have access to online accounts, review paper bank and credit card statements monthly and monitor your billing cycles for missing bills or statements.
  • Use emailbased account “alerts” to monitor transfers, payments, low balances and withdrawals and review your credit report (now available for free annual review).

Identity Theft Resource Center - September 2003

On September 23, 2003, the Identity Theft Resource Center ( released its survey of the impact of identity theft on 173 known victims. To read the full survey, see:

Survey findings include:

  • Nearly 85% of all victims find out about their identity theft case in a negative manner. Only 15% of victims find out due to a proactive action taken by a business.
  • The average time spent by victims is about 600 hours, an increase of more than 300% over previous studies.
  • While victims are finding out about their cases earlier, it is taking far longer now than before to eliminate negative information from credit reports.
  • A large majority of respondents indicates the opening of a credit card (73%) or takeover of a card account (27%) to be among crimes committed.
  • The emotional impact of identity theft has been found to parallel that of victims of violent crime.
  • The responsiveness toward victims by the various entities with which they must interact continues to be lacking in sensitivity in most cases and has not improved since studies released in 2000 (Nowhere to Turn).

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - December 2004

On December 14, 2004, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released a study on phishing and account-takeover including information about fraudulent automated clearing house (ACH) payments. A complete copy of the FDIC's study is available online at:

Key findings include:

  • While precise statistics on the prevalence of account hijacking are difficult to obtain, recent studies indicate that unauthorized access to checking accounts is the fastest growing form of identity theft.
  • Another recent study has estimated that almost 2 million U.S. adult Internet users experienced this fraud during the 12 months ending April 2004. Of those, 70 percent do their banking or pay their bills online and over half believed they received a phishing e-mail.
  • Consumers are attributing risk to their use of the Internet to conduct financial transactions, and many experts believe that electronic fraud, especially account hijacking, will have the effect of slowing the growth of online banking and commerce.
  • Up to 5 percent of the recipients of spoofed e-mails respond to them.
  • An estimated 19 percent of “those attacked” have clicked on the link in a phishing e-mail. Most, if not all, large financial institutions and electronic bill-paying services (such as PayPal) have been hit with phishing attacks.
  • Because many phishing attacks originate overseas and because the average life span of a phishing Web site is 2.25 days, the sites are hard to shut down.

Federal Trade Commission Survey - September 2003

On September 3, 2003, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a survey on identity theft. The survey was conducted in March and April of 2003 with a random sample of over 4,000 households. To read the survey, go to

Key findings include:

How Many Consumers Are Victims of Identity Theft?

  • 27.3 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years, including 9.91 million people or 4.6% of the population in the last year alone.
  • In the past 12 months, 3.23 million consumers or 1.5% of the population discovered that new accounts had been opened, and other frauds such as renting an apartment or home, obtaining medical care or employment, had been committed in their name. 6.6 million experienced their existing accounts compromised by an identity theft. A total of almost 10 million individuals were victims of identity theft.
  • 52% of all ID theft victims, approximately 5 million people in the last year, discovered that they were victims of identity theft by monitoring their accounts.

Misuse of Personal Information

  • On average, 49% of victims did not know how their information was obtained.
  • Another 26% - approximately 2.5 million people - reported that they were alerted to suspicious account activity by companies such as credit card issuers or banks.
  • 8% reported that they first learned when they applied for credit and were turned down.
  • 15% of all victims - almost 1.5 million people in the last year - reported that their personal information was misused in nonfinancial ways, to obtain government documents, for example, or on tax forms.
  • 67% of identity theft victims - more than 6.5 million victims in the last year - report that existing credit card accounts were misused.
  • 19% reported that checking or savings accounts were misused.
  • Nearly one-quarter of all victims - roughly 2.5 million people in the last year - said their information was lost or stolen, including lost or stolen credit cards, checkbooks or social security cards.
  • Stolen mail was the source of information for identity thieves in 4 percent of all victims - 400,000 in the last year.

Costs to Businesses and Consumers

  • Last year's identity theft losses to businesses and financial institutions totaled $47.6 billion and consumer victims reported $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.
  • In those cases, the loss to businesses and financial institutions was $10,200 per victim totaling $32.9 billion. Individual victims lost an average of $1,180 for a total of $3.8 billion.
  • Where the thieves solely used a victim's established accounts, the loss to businesses was $2,100 per victim totaling $14.0 billion. For all forms of identity theft, the loss to business was $4,800 and the loss to consumers was $500, on average.

Gartner Survey - July 2003

On July 21, 2003, Gartner ( released the results of a survey of 2,445 households regarding identity theft. To read the press release, go to:

The survey found the following:

  • Identity theft is up nearly 80 percent from last year.
  • 7 million U.S. adults or 3.4 percent of U.S. consumers were identity theft victims in the past 12 months.
  • Because this crime is often misclassified, the thieves have just a one in 700 chance of being caught by the federal authorities.

Privacy & American Business Survey - July 2003

A July 30, 2003, Privacy & American Business survey found the following. To read the press release, go to

        How Many Consumers Are Victims of Identity Theft?

  • 33.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft since 1990.
  • Over 13 million Americans have become victims of identity theft since January 2001.
  • Consumer out-of-pocket expenses have totaled $1.5 billion annually since January 2001.
  • 34% say someone obtained their credit card information, forged a credit card in their name, and used it to make purchases.
  • 12% say someone stole or obtained improperly a paper or computer record with their personal information on it and used that to forge their identity.
  • 11% say someone stole their wallet or purse and used their identity.
  • 10% say someone opened charge accounts in stores in their name and made purchases as them.
  • 7% say someone opened a bank account in their name or forged checks and obtained money from their account.
  • 7% say someone got to their mail or mailbox and used information there to steal their identity.
  • 5% say they lost their wallet or purse and someone used their identity.
  • 4% say someone went to a public record and used information there to steal their identity.
  • 3% say someone created false IDs and posed as them to get government benefits or payments.
  • 16% say it was a friend, relative or co-worker who stole their identity.
  • The seven million victims the survey identified in 2002 represent an 81% rise over victims in 2001.
  • Identity theft incidents reported so far in 2003 suggest a major rise over 2002. The victims level and upward trend parallel findings of a Gartner survey released last week.

        What Are Victims' Out of Pocket Expenses?

  • While 62% of victims did not incur any out-of-pocket expenses, 38% did, representing 13-14 million Americans.
  • Since January 2001, these 38% have paid approximately $3.8 billion, or an average of $1.5 billion per year. Based on actual amounts volunteered by respondents themselves, the average cost per victim for this time period is $740.
  • An earlier June 2002 survey on ID theft by P&AB and Harris found that a majority of Americans, 91%, do not see light at the end of the tunnel; they expect heavy ID theft incidents to increase rather than decrease in the near future.
  • The 2002 survey also found that 49%, or 98 million adults, feel they do not know how to protect themselves against identity theft.
  • One in six consumers, representing almost 34 million, say they have bought a privacy protection product to help avoid identity theft, to check their credit report, and to surf or shop online anonymously. At $75, the average annual price for these products, these figures represent a $2.5 billion expenditure.