Study: ID theft hits an all-time high again

Significant increases seen in e-payments and mobile phone fraud incidence rates

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


For the second year in a row, identity fraud has surged to a new high, affecting 1.3 million more Americans than 2016, with identity thieves targeting many more account types than credit and debit cards.

Javelin Strategy & Research reports that in 2017, 16.7 million Americans – or 6.6 percent of the total population – were the victims of some kind of identity fraud. That’s up from 15.4 million in 2016, when the share was 6.2 percent.

From 2012 to 2015, fraud victims had hovered steadily between 5.2 and 5.4 percent of U.S. consumers, just barely breaking 13 million Americans. But 2016 saw the incidence rate shoot up, with 2017 extending the trend even higher.

Among seven categories of fraud that comprise Javelin’s overall fraud tally, all saw significant increases since 2016 except for point-of-sale fraud, which is down due to the broad rollout of chip-enabled cards. But new account fraud moved up 80 percent (0.74 to 1.33 percent), existing non-card fraud more than doubled (1.17 to 2.52 percent), and account takeover fraud came close to tripling (0.57 to 1.58 percent).

As in years past, credit cards are still the most commonly compromised account type, but now just by a hair. That’s because 2017 saw the percentage of victims who experienced fraud with a credit card account dropping from 30 percent to 26 percent, while fraud involving mobile phone accounts surged to 25 percent of victims.

Indeed, nine types of consumer accounts saw notable increases in fraud rates as the share of credit card fraud dropped. Though mobile phone accounts are now the second-most common account affected by identity theft, PayPal and other e-payment accounts saw the biggest upturn from 2016 to 2017, swelling 16 points from 6 percent of victims to 22 percent in 2017.

Other account types showing significant upticks in identity fraud over the one-year period were home equity loans and lines of credit (up 10 percentage points), first mortgages (up 9 points), and online shopping accounts (up 8 points).

Javelin’s identity fraud analysis is based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. adults conducted in the first half of November 2017, with results weighted to mirror U.S. Census demographics. It releases its annual report every February.

Fraud hits an all-time high

See related: Infographic: Identity fraud victims at record high, More infographics

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Updated: 12-15-2018