Identity theft and identity fraud refer to crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another individual’s personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
In 2018, an estimated 23 million people age 16 or older in the United States reported that they had been a victim of identity theft in the prior 12 months, according to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In total, victims reported more than $15 billion in financial losses due to identity theft that year.
For victims, identity theft can cause far more damage than just loss of money or ruined credit. Victims of identity theft can be victims of multiple crimes and may be unable to fully define what happened to them and how it happened. Similar to victims of violent crime, identity theft victims can also suffer significant emotional and physical stress due to their victimization.
For victim service providers, understanding the varied needs of victims is an important step in improving their responses to them. Developed with support from the Office for Victims of Crime, the 2020 NITVAN Identity Theft Coalition Building Toolkit supports victim service providers and others in their efforts to better address the rights and needs of identity theft victims through coalition building.
Overall, identity theft can be challenging to measure due to low reporting. Victims may be embarrassed to accept their victimization, they may not know where to report the crime, they may doubt law enforcement’s response, or the perpetrator may be a family member. According to the BJS report, just 7 percent of identity theft victims in 2018 reported the crime to law enforcement. However, the report showed that victims whose personal information was used to set up new financial accounts were more likely to report the crime compared to those whose existing accounts were compromised.
If you believe you are a victim, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft.
To learn more about identity theft, visit the following pages for additional resources from the Office of Justice Programs and other federal sources: