ITRC Reports On ID Theft in '07, Predictions for '08
At the end of each year, the Identity Theft Resource Center(R) reviews identity theft trends and patterns throughout the year. It examines the new directions this crime appears to be taking. The basis of this information includes: victims and their experiences, ITRC's expertise, and data from law enforcement on the ways criminals are stealing and using personal identifying information and financial records.
Last year, ITRC predicted the following trends for 2007:
• There will be an increase in check fraud, check synthesizing and check
• Phishing will continue to grow as a problem.
• Child, family and domestic identity theft victims will be acknowledged
by law enforcement and companies.
• There will still be a lack of sensitivity and responsiveness toward
victims by some law enforcement agencies, companies and government
• We will see more communication between various law enforcement entities
in multi-jurisdictional cases, including the creation of regional task
• Our score was five out of five. Identity theft continues to thrive
despite efforts by governmental agencies, businesses, consumer
advocates and law enforcement. As a crime of opportunity, identity
thieves keep finding ways to steal, becoming more sophisticated and
skilled at their craft.
2007 in Review:
• Check schemes are increasing as credit issuers make it more difficult
to get credit without authentication. Not only are identity thieves
stealing existing checks, they are also counterfeiting new checks that
may contain your account number but a different name. Another ploy is
to put your information on the top of a check and make up an account
number, one you never opened.
• While the Internet is not the culprit, it has become a tool that
identity thieves have embraced and abuse to find victims and commit
fraudulent activities. Scamsters continue to exploit Web sites that
promote online auctions and want ads, job hunting, dating (sweetheart
scams) and social networking to find victims.
• Scams continue to flourish, generally falling into known categories:
lotteries, jury duty, IRS audits, Nigerian, account verification or
phishing, money laundering and check cashing (you deposit checks for a
company and then send them the money).
• Family members are stealing identities from each other, including
children's identities. Some of the cases turn into an "all in the
family" situation. A recent ITRC study showed that the highest
targeted category of children is between 0-5 years of age. Domestic
identity theft continues to be a problem, often including former
• There is a symbiotic relationship between identity theft with other
crimes to finance and enhance the growth of highly profitable crimes
including meth and drugs, terrorism, and illegal trafficking of goods
• Misleading commercials continue to be shown on television that either
glamorize identity theft or make light of this crime at the expense of
existing victims. Sheila Gordon, ITRC's Director of Victim Services
expressed this insight: "From the victim's perspective, there is
nothing glamorous about this crime. It takes hours of hard work,
internal strength, time and courage to clean up the mess left by an
imposter. However, you rarely hear about these stories. You hear
about the exciting exploits of 'Bonnie and Clyde' or movies like 'Catch
Me If You Can.' In romanticizing identity theft, the media entices
novices and young adults to try their skill at identity theft and to
play the role."
• The failure to believe someone could steal your identity generates
apathy; therefore, individuals fail to take proactive steps to minimize
risk. The glamorizing of this crime, and the failure to focus on the
national problem of identity theft has had a desensitizing effect on
the public. The availability of consumer education is still limited
and may be faulty.
• There continues to be a lack of understanding by friends, family and
the general public regarding the emotional impact of this crime on the
victims, both short term and long term. This information appears every
year in ITRC's The Aftermath Study, which focuses on the individual.
• The ITRC saw an increase of products being sold to capitalize on the
identity theft fears of consumers. Unfortunately, some of these
products do not carefully explain their limitations and lead consumers
into believing that the product can completely protect them from this
crime. Some products have merit but it is definitely a "due diligence"
• The year 2007 reflected continual blame on consumers as a primary cause
of identity theft. Various studies and articles failed to explain that
consumers, governmental agencies, educational and medical facilities
and businesses all need to handle sensitive personal information,
especially Social Security numbers and financial account numbers, with
the greatest care.
• On the positive side, there has been improved communication among
businesses, consumers and law enforcement as to the causes and possible
solutions to reduce identity theft crimes.
• There has been growing acknowledgement that identity theft is a
multi-faceted crime and not just financial in nature. More cases of
criminal identity theft, where the imposter uses the victim's identity
when arrested or cited, are being reported. Criminals are using a
victim's Social Security number to work, collect welfare or
unemployment, as well as get medical benefits and healthcare.
Predictions for 2008:
"Identity theft is like the never-ending story," said Linda Foley, ITRC Founder. "It acts like an oil spill that spreads in yet another direction with the ocean currents and wind despite best efforts to contain it."
• We only have to look at the papers to see that thieves are getting
younger and younger. Recently, two people in their early 20's were
arrested, in possession of sophisticated forgery equipment. This is a
strong indicator that identity theft is becoming a lucrative career
• Identity theft will continue to grow more international in scope.
Scams will become more sophisticated and will be harder to detect, as
thieves become more industrious and skilled at designing viruses,
Trojans and ways to trick you into divulging personal identifying
• There will be an increase in the number of data breaches due to poor
information handling policies and practices.
• There will be a continuation of contradictory studies with less
agreement on victim census, cause and effect, facts and overall cost of
identity theft. This will lead to confusion, misguided legislation and
• On the positive side, ITRC believes that businesses will develop and
implement better ways to authenticate the identity of applicants
including Internet and telephone applications.
• There will be a higher recognition of identity theft as a crime by law
enforcement. This will lead to more reports written to assist victims
in taking advantage of state and federal victim recovery rights.
• There will more legislative action on the issue of identity theft,
including limiting the use of Social Security numbers.
• States and non-profits will be in a better position to provide more
victim assistance at no charge.
"The Identity Theft Resource Center, when making some negative predictions for 2008, truly hopes that we will be wrong. We will work collaboratively with others toward making the positive predictions come true. The ITRC will be watching closely as the year 2008 unfolds," remarked Executive Director Jay Foley.