identity theft statistics

*This list is regularly updated with the latest identity theft statistics for 2019 – 2021 (plus a few earlier stats thrown in). To date, we have compiled over 30 identity theft facts, figures and trends from a wide range of sources and covering a number of different countries.

As the world continues its relentless march toward all things digital, the reams of data we’re uploading to the web are increasingly exposed. Each individual consumer’s personal information now resides on hundreds, if not thousands of servers across the globe. With that fact comes a somewhat obvious result: an increase in identity theft.

Data theft is big business, and following good news in 2019 when there was a slight decrease in ID theft cases, this has unfortunately reversed in 2020 partly due to the effect of the pandemic.  According to the FTC, identity fraud incidents increased around 45% in 2020, incurring financial losses for many.

Additionally, Javelin Strategy found that children are increasingly the victims of identity fraud. While children have long been a target for Social Security Number misuse and credit card fraud, it appears the impact is growing. The security firm found that over 1 million children were ID theft victims in 2017.

Identity theft statistics have taken center stage among the many stats and facts encompassing the entire realm of cybercrime. While ransomware gains more attention, identity theft remains much easier to pull off and monetize. Social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other personal identity factors can be stolen and sold on the dark web, or used by criminals for quick and easy profit.

The following identity theft statistics are categorized to help get a better feel for how and why this threat continues to be a problem for consumers, businesses, and governments worldwide.

Related: Cyber security statistics

1. Over 12,000 reported data breaches occurred in the US between 2005 and June 2020, which help contribute to identity fraud

Alongside the 12,098 reported data breaches in the US between 2008 and June 2020, there were over 11 billion records stolen during that time frame. The numbers reveal that contrary to efforts to stem the tide of data theft, thieves are learning new ways to bypass protections, and much of our data is not protected at all.

The personal information stolen in data breaches can be used to conduct identity theft.

2. Number of fraud incidents up in 2020 from 2019

Following a fall in new fraud incidents in 2019, when just 5.1% of consumers reported being victims of fraud, compared to 5.7% of consumers reporting in 2018: 2020 saw a rise in incidents of two different kinds.

These resulted in climbing total identity fraud losses of $56 billion (USD). Of those losses, $43 billion was attributed to identity fraud scams rather than traditional fraud incidents resulting from the theft and misuse of PII.

3. Identity fraud losses up 45% between 2019 and 2020

Identity theft incidents almost doubled between 2019 and 2020. The total amount of money lost due to identity fraud was also on the rise.

According to the FTC reported losses grew from $1.8 in 2019 to $3.3 billion in 2020. However, it is worth noting that these figures do not necessarily account for all losses. A study by Javelin Strategy claims that total losses because of fraud hit $16.9 billion in 2019.

4. Account takeovers up 72 percent

Account takeovers can occur when a criminal gains access to someone’s accounts holding personal information. Account takeovers were up 72 percent in 2019 over the previous year.

5. 40% of account takeovers happened in just one day

Javelin Research found that fraudsters are fast in their efforts to take over accounts. The company’s 2020 research on identity fraud reports that 40% of takeovers happen within 24 hours of a criminal’s access to a victim’s account.

6. EMV chip credit cards helped to reduce some fraud

EMV chip adoption in the US was slow, but by 2020, around 67% of merchants had POS systems in place to accept the chips (up from 59% in 2018), while every major card issuer had already switched to delivering cards with EMV chips.

Prior to EMV chip cards, credit card fraud was the single-largest source of identity fraud losses. However, counterfeit card fraud fell 75% after EMV card rollouts.

7. The pandemic was a leading cause of fraud

The pandemic caused a noticeable effect on the scams that transpired in 2020. Unsolicited calls, robocalls, and phishing emails saw dramatic increases during the period in question due to lockdown.

These identity theft scams, including the theft of social security numbers, were used as an attack vector to steal the PII needed to engage in false claims and contributed to a dramatic increase in false claims (more on this later).

Finally, digital payment methods used to shop from home during lengthy lockdown periods also accounted for an increase in fraud, with 18 million victims reportedly affected.

8. Stolen credit card data is often sold on dark web marketplaces for as little as $0.50 per card

Although the cost of losing credit card information can be extensive, those selling that data on the dark web often do so at incredibly low prices. Symantec found single credit cards priced as low as $0.50, and some as high as $20 each. Cards with full details, including CCV numbers, were more commonly twice as expensive, and often run between $1 and $45 per card.

Data from skimmed magnetic is often the most expensive card data on the dark web. The asking price for those can range from $5 to $60 or more.

9. Most people in the US know an indentity theft victim

Around 10% of Americans have been a victim of identity fraud, 21% of whom have been victimized more than once. Those numbers indicate that if you live in the US, you have likely been a victim of ID theft or known someone who has (whether they’ve admitted to it or not).

10. UK identity theft reaching “epidemic levels”

In 2017, Cifas announced that identity fraud in the UK is reaching “epidemic levels” with fraud incidents occurring at a rate of 500 per day. Unfortunately, things only got worse in 2020, with a one-third increase. Notably, 42% of reported incidents were committed with the goal of obtaining a credit card. 

11. Account takeovers saw a huge increase between 2018 and 2019

Account takeovers have been on the rise for a while but spiked 70% in 2019, bringing losses associated with account takeovers to a staggering $6.8 billion USD, up from $5.1 billion the previous year.

12. An average of 4,800 websites are compromised with formjacking code each month

A comparatively new type of cyber attack, formjacking consists of hackers injecting malicious Javascript code that scrapes personal information submitted onto a website via website forms. Once a user submits that information, the malicious code collects and transfers that data to another server controlled by the attacker.

In its 2019 Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec noted that it detected and blocked 3.7 million formjacking attempts in 2018. This technique seems to be working for hackers, though, since in Q1 2020, Symantec found 7,836 compromised websites, up from 7,663 the previous quarter.

13. In 2018, mobile account takeovers increased dramatically

Javelin Strategy found that there were 679,000 mobile account takeovers, versus 380,000 in 2017.

Mobile account takeover happens when a scammer takes control of your phone account and phone number. They can then use your number to send and receive phone calls and texts.

14. Millennials accounted for 44% of US identity fraud reports

According to the FTC, there were 2.2 million fraud reports from consumers in 2020, a nearly 32% increase over the 1.6 million fraud reports in 2019. 44% of these were from people between the ages of 20 and 29, while just 13% were from people over 70 years old. However, it recently launched an online platform for reporting fraud, which may see these numbers increase more than usual, given the ease of which users can file a report.

Equifax also confirmed that Millennials were prime targets for fraudsters. According to Equifax Canada, nearly half of all suspected fraud applications are for those between the ages of 18 and 34.

15. Identity scams were the most commonly reported scam in the US in 2020, followed by imposter scams

The 2020 FTC Consumer Sentinel Data Book reveals that identity fraud accounted for the largest share of fraud reports to the FTC, accounting for 29.39% of all reported scams last year. Imposter scams were a distant second, with 10.56% of all scam reports.

The FTC also reports a 73% year-over-year increase in identity thefts from 2019 to 2020. There were nearly 1.4 million reported ID theft incidents in 2020, versus 650,000+ in 2019.

16. Social media users are a high-risk group for identity theft

Those who use social media are among the most likely to experience fraud. Javelin Strategy found that individuals who have an active social media presence had a 30 percent higher risk of being a fraud victim than those who weren’t active.

People who use Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat were particularly vulnerable. Users on these sites have a 46 percent higher risk of account takeovers and fraud than those not active on any social media networks.

17. Millennials are most likely to be identity theft victims

FTC data shows those aged 30-39 are most likely to be identity theft victims. That age group, which comprises some (but not all) Millennials, reported over 306,090 instances of ID theft in 2020. Individuals who fall within Gen X, aged 40-49, were the second most likely to have reported ID thefts, with over 302,678 incidents.

FTC Identity Theft Reports by Age
Source: FTC

18. Children are often victims of identity fraud

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 1.3 million children’s records are stolen every year. Foster children have an even greater risk as a percentage of all children. 

Self-reported data to the FTC indicates that over 23,651 identity theft victims were under the age of 19 in 2020. This reflects a 50% increase over the 14,000 reported in 2019.

19. Over 1 in 10 identity theft victims don’t want police reports

FTC data from 2016 shows a surprising 11% of those who reported identity theft to law enforcement did not want a police report taken. 

This is largely because those who fall victim to identity theft and scams often feel embarrassed and may seek to conceal the fact that they have been victimized.

20. Only 14% of consumers use VPNs to protect their identity

Despite the verified increase in data protection it provides, 86 percent of consumers fail to use a VPN to protect their WiFi connections. 

21. Government benefits fraud leading type of identity theft

The 2020 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book reveals there were 394,324 reports of government benefits fraud that year, a staggering increase of 2,920% over 2019. That makes government benefits fraud the top reported type of ID fraud in 2020. Credit card fraud accounted for over 393,000 reports, putting it a close second.

22. 87% of consumers have left personal information exposed online

Symantec found that 87 percent of consumers have left their personal information exposed while accessing emails, bank accounts or financial information, another issue that could be mitigated through the use of a VPN.

The lack of personal WiFi protections appears to coincide with the fact that 60% of consumers feel as though their personal information is safe when using public WiFi.

23. Identify theft now accounts for nearly 3o% of all FTC CSN reports

While the total number of reports made to the Consumer Sentinel Network didn’t rise remarkably between 2017 and 2019, there was a significant increase from 2019 (over 3.2 million) to 2020 (over 4.7 million). In 2019, ID theft had risen to 20.33% of the total number of reports, or over 650,000. However, this rose to 20.39% in 2020 with nearly 1.4 million identity theft reports made. Imposter scams were a distant second, accounting for 10.56% of reports.

24. Most small businesses store private information that could be exposed

According to a CSID survey, in 2016, 52% of small businesses didn’t invest in cyber risk mitigation, believing that they didn’t store any private information. However, 68% at a minimum stored email addresses, which is one potential entry vector for hackers. CSID also found that 31% of surveyed small businesses did not take any active measures to mitigate cyber risks such as data breaches and hacking.

Complicating the matter is money and human resources. In 2019, nearly 77% of businesses claim they didn’t have the personnel to properly secure their records and systems, a 2% increase from 2018. Around 55% indicate they lack the budget to invest in better protection. Finally, in 2020, small businesses accounted for 28% of all data breaches.

25. The median fraud loss is just $311, but fraud losses are growing

The FTC reports that the average fraud loss in 2020 was $311. In 2020, some 526,007 reports were for losses of $1000 or less. Of these, 227,540 fell below $100.

An Experian survey discovered that half of all American adults believe that identity thieves are not interested in people with poor credit. Consequently, people with poor credit are still at risk for fraud and fraud losses. 

26. Many fraud victims don’t get reimbursed for their losses

An increasing number of fraud victims are not getting reimbursed. Javelin found 23 percent of fraud victims did not get their money back in 2018, which is 3 times more than in 2016.

27. Poor shopping habits leave Americans exposed to ID theft

Experian found 43% of identity theft victims in the U.S. admitted the incident happened after shopping online during the holidays. Despite this, only 58% said they wouldn’t use public wifi networks for shopping in the future.

28. Account sharing habits could lead to ID theft

Despite the risks involved, a survey found 79% of Americans admit to sharing passwords. Only 13% of survey respondents were worried about identity fraud, despite the risk. Given 65% of surveyed adults admit to reusing passwords across sites, many adults could be more vulnerable to ID theft than they realize. 

29. Card-related fraud is down again in Australia

The Australia Payments Network reports that while spending on payment cards is up, card fraud has fallen for a second year. Its FY 2020 report indicates counterfeit/skimming fraud fell by 14.2%, lost and stolen card fraud fell by 37%, and card-not-present fraud (CNP) fell by 7.28%. 

30. Identity theft has lasting emotional impacts

In its 2018 study The Aftermath®: The Non-Economic Impacts of Identity Theft, the Identity Theft Resource Center examined the emotional impacts that follow from identity theft victimhood. The study found 77.3% of victims report increased stress levels and 54.5% experienced more fatigue and decreased energy.

ID theft victimhood can also erode personal relationships. Over 45% of victims felt they could not trust family members after experiencing ID theft. A further 55% noted newly-developed trust issues with friends.

31. New account fraud losses exceed $3.4 billion

New Account Fraud (NAF) losses increased in 2018, to $3.4 billion. NAF fraud accounted for $3 billion in losses in 2017. According to the FTC, new account fraud was also up 88% between 2018 and 2019.

32. Federal student loan fraud identity theft largest increase in 2019

Although there were just over 14,600 reports related to it, FTC Consumer Sentinel Report data shows identity theft based on fraudulent applications for federal student loans rose 188% between 2018 and 2019.

Identity theft statistics reveal the problem is not going away

Identity theft is increasingly a 21st-Century problem. As more data moves off of physical paper and onto Internet-connected servers, the chances of that data getting stolen increases as well. While “malicious outsiders” remain active in stealing data (and by extension, loss of credit card numbers and Social Security Numbers), consumers share a good part of the blame for their lost data. Nevertheless, there are some positives that have emerged in response.

Thankfully, Consumers are getting slightly better at detecting fraud attempts. Javelin Strategy and Research found that online shoppers tended to be quick at identifying fraud attempts. Surprisingly, 78 percent of fraud victims were able to detect fraud within a week’s time.

Still, identity theft prevention appears to be on the rise despite savvier consumers. Data breaches show no signs of decreasing. And unfortunately, consumers still appear to be less than proactive when it comes to securing their private information.