17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014, according to a government report released Sunday.
Eighty-six percent of the victims were targets of credit card and bank account fraud. An estimated 8.6 million victims had their credit card accounts stolen, 8.1 million victims had bank accounts meddled with. Another 1.5 million experience other varying types of identity theft, including telephone and insurance fraud.
Two-thirds of victims suffered direct financial losses. Fourteen percent lost $1,000 or more.
The report, conducted by the statistics branch of the Justice Department, determined the number of instances of attempted and successful use of personal banking, credit card, and other types of account information for fraudulent purposes like “obtaining government benefits or providing false information to police during a crime or traffic stop.”
All together, about 7 percent of all U.S. residents aged 16 and older were victims of identity theft. The total financial loss for 2014 was $15.4 billion, down from $24.7 billion in 2012, when DOJ last reported the number of identity theft victims in the United States. The author, Erika Harrell, a statistician with the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, attributes this to the fact that victims in the top 10 percent of financial loss distribution reported fewer losses: $11.1 billion in 2014 as compared to $20.5 billion in 2012.
While identity theft is in fact a crime, fewer than one in 10 victims reported incidents to the police. Meanwhile 87 percent of victims contacted their financial institutions to report the misuse of their personal information. The income bracket targeted most frequently comprises households making $75,000 or more.
The report found that about half of the victims, 52 percent, were able to resolve the matter in a day or less, while 9 percent spent more than a month working to repair the damage done.
2.6 million senior citizens were victimized in 2014, up from 2.1 million in 2012.