The Identity Theft Resource Center has released its annual Aftermath study. From their press release:
For the first time in 7 years, The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)® can state that it is encouraged by the findings of the Identity Theft: The Aftermath 2009™. It is becoming clear that some areas of great distress in the past have become less worrisome for the victims. This is true in terms of victim time involvement, cost to victim, support from friends, level of satisfaction in interactions with law enforcement, and fewer negative consequences.
- Victim hours repairing damage: Victims reported spending an average of 68 hours repairing the damage done by identity theft to an existing account used or taken over by the thief, down from an average of 76 hours in 2008. In cases where a new account, criminal, governmental or a combination of several situations were involved, respondents reported an average of 141 hours to clean up the fraud. This is a significant decrease from the average of 265 hours in 2008.
- Costs to victim: Respondents in 2009 spent an average of $527 dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for damage done to an existing account. This is down from the $741 reported in 2008.
- Important Relationships: In 2009, 44% of the respondents indicated support from friends, while only 9% said friends were not supportive.
Unfortunately, the 2009 Aftermath, once again, shows a number of negative issues that victims continue to encounter. Check fraud is on the increase, along with cases involving governmental and criminal identity theft issues. The moment of discovery of the case continues to be adverse, indicating that the public and business sections have been less successful in proactive measures to stop identity theft crimes before they happen or become complicated. In addition, the victim’s inability to easily resolve negative records continues to be a stated point of frustration and source of anger, including short-term and long-term emotional impact.
- Inability to clear negative records: Unfortunately, while victim time involvement may have decreased, there continues to be an inability to easily clear negative records. Nearly 1/3 of the respondents were unable to remove any negative items.
- Victim discovery of crime: It is disturbing to note that self-proactive measures decreased from 2008, despite growing educational efforts nationwide to enhance consumers’ knowledge of this issue. It is equally disturbing that business-proactive measures reflect only a nominal increase.
- Uses of victim information: Opening new lines of credit continues to remain the most frequently occurring use for a victim’s identity (55%). Ranking second in use of personal information are charges on stolen credit cards and debit cards at 34%. Check fraud continued to reflect an increase in 2009 either by synthesizing or theft of checks.
Since 2003, the ITRC has conducted annual victimization surveys to study the impact of identity theft crimes on its victims. The goal of these surveys and reports, now with seven years of information, is to view identity theft from the victim’s perspective. These annual studies provide a snapshot of each victim at the time they took the study.
Other general highlights include:
- Prevalence of types of identity theft crimes: The “unlawful use of personal identifying information” for only financial identity theft crimes was reported by 74% of the respondents. The remaining 26% reflect cases of criminal identity theft, governmental identity theft, and/or combinations of the above.
- Child identity theft: Responses indicate a shift in criminal behavior relation to child identity theft from family members to unknown perpetrators.
- Emotional Impact: Dr. Charles Nelson (crime victim specialist), analyzed the short term and long term emotions felt by victims. He reached the following conclusions:
- Despite media coverage and education about identity theft, the public still believes this happens to someone else. Thus, when this crime touches their lives, disbelief and denial are intensified, followed by anger and rage, similar to the stages of grief.
- The ITRC is seeing an increase in long term shame, embarrassment, a sense of being an outcast, and undeserving of help. This may be due to strong consumer messaging about protecting yourself from identity theft.
- Many victims “have on-going symptoms and do indicate that they are wrestling with long term dysfunctional changes in their behavior and thought patterns.”