Identity theft has posed a problem for decades, and in 2021, it remains a widespread issue. Between a pandemic and a world pushing more online, identity theft has become not only a larger problem, but also a more sophisticated one. Here, we’ve gathered the top identity theft statistics for 2021, so you know how to keep yourself safe.
- New forms of stealing information, such as formjacking, are on the rise.
- Identity theft can have a devastating economic impact, but also an emotional one.
- While large corporations are often the subject of data breaches, small businesses are at risk, too.
In addition to covering the rates of identity theft and the age groups targeted, we’ll also cover the economic and emotional impacts inflicted by identity theft. This guide isn’t all bad news, though. Throughout, we’ll also recommend a few ways you can protect yourself.
The most common form of identity theft is new account fraud (4). This is where an attacker uses your personal information to open new accounts in your name. Bank accounts and credit cards are the most threatening. However, attackers open other accounts, too, usually on social networks.
The FTC reported receiving 650,572 identity theft complaints in 2019, compromising 20 percent of the 3,240,749 complaints it received that year (4). The actual number of cases is likely higher, though, with Javelin Strategy and Research suggesting that 5.1 percent of all consumers fell victim to identity theft in 2019 (around 15 million) (6).
Data from the last few years shows that around 14.4 million people have their identity stolen each year (5). That’s nearly 40,000 cases each day.
Identity Theft Statistics: Basic Facts You Should Know
Before getting to our stats, let’s define what identity theft is and some important terms you should know.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is any fraud related to using someone else’s personal information. In many cases, data breaches are where personal information leaks out. In 2018, around 65 percent of all data breaches resulted in identity theft17.
There are various different forms of identity theft, but the most common is account or credit theft (the two are usually grouped together). Account identity theft is whenever a criminal gains access to an existing account you have (social media, bank or otherwise) or opens a new account using your information.
There are different ways attackers find and gather this information. As mentioned, data breaches are a major attack vector. Personal data can also be compromised with email scams, social media scams and phone scams. New attack vectors are showing up, too, such as formjacking (more on that soon).
Important Identity Theft Terms
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a U.S. government agency that helps protect consumers from fraud and scams, including identity theft. The FTC is important because it allows victims to report identity theft, so much of the data we’ll reference in this guide is tied back to the FTC in one form or another.
It’s also important because the FTC puts out regular notices about scams. If you’re worried about falling victim to a scam — through any means, whether it’s email, phone or otherwise — check the FTC website to learn about new, widespread scams.
One of the most significant ways criminals obtain personal information is through data breaches. Subpar security practices at businesses large and small still pose a great threat to consumers, hosting personal data that can be used for identity theft without protecting it properly.
However, there are a few ways you can still protect yourself, including using a VPN (read our ExpressVPN review to learn about our favorite one).
New Account Fraud
One of the most common forms of identity theft is new account fraud. Basically, it’s when the attacker, using personal information obtained through one of various means, opens a new account with your name and personal information.
The most pressing new account fraud is when someone opens a bank account with your information. However, this term refers to any account fraud, including social media accounts and other online platforms. This is important because not all new account fraud specifically targets stealing money.
“Fraud losses” refers to any money lost related to fraud. In the case of identity theft, that includes money that the attacker steals in the victim’s name, of course, but also any expenses incurred from lost work time and money invested in recovery.
Using fraud losses as a figure helps illustrate the economic impact of identity theft across the board, not just the expenses of a single victim.
Identity Theft Trends of 2021
Identity theft statistics and trends benefit from hindsight, especially as identity theft has been on the rise in the U.S. since 2005, peaking in 2017 before dropping slightly between 2018 and 2019. We don’t have complete data from 2020 yet, but given the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect an upward trend going through 2021.
Javelin Strategy and Research claims that “cyber risk fallout from the pandemic will carry over into 2021” and that “exponential growth in digital channels and advanced criminal methodologies will lead to a more complicated series of problems.” The firm’s 2020 identity theft analysis found that high-impact forms of identity theft are on the rise in the U.S.
Instead of targeting credit card fraud and the like, cybercriminals are targeting high-impact, sustained forms of identity theft, like account takeovers. The report also suggests a downward trend in the number of people impacted by identity theft. However, it contrasts this trend with an uptick in fraudulent losses.
The 20 Most Important Identity Theft Statistics
With some definitions and a small look at the future out of the way, let’s run down the 20 most important identity theft statistics.
1. How Frequent Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is one of the most frequent forms of cybercrime, with Javelin Strategy and Research estimating that there was a new victim of identity theft in the U.S. every two seconds in 20161.
For more concrete numbers, around 15 million people fell victim to identity theft each year in the U.S., according to data from Javelin Strategy and Research that was compiled by the Insurance Information Institute4.
2. How Much Does Identity Theft Cost?
Identity fraud caused an economic loss of $16.9 billion6 in 2019, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. This is despite the fact that the percentage of people who fell victim to identity theft dropped in 2019, from a peak of 6.6 percent in 2017 to 5.1 percent in 2019.
3. Who Is Most at Risk for Identity Theft?
There are high-risk groups for identity theft for 2021. Although statistics are sparse, LifeLock claims there are four groups most at risk: Children, heavy social media users, high-income earners and the elderly16. Data from the AARP backs up that last group, stating that 27 percent of respondents to a survey said they had been victims of some sort of identity fraud2.
Children are becoming the most popular group targeted by cybercriminals. In 2017, one million children fell victim to identity theft in the U.S., resulting in $2.6 billion in losses12.
4. Who Commits Identity Theft?
Criminals usually aren’t willing to take a survey, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the demographic makeup of identity theft schemers is largely unknown. It may happen in places you don’t suspect, though.
Having access to information is the most important element when it comes to identity theft. In many cases, identity theft can come from someone you know (such as the case of a mother who opened $50,000 in credit using her son’s information).
Other data backs up that someone you know is the most likely to commit identity theft. In 2018, the ITRC found that 45.5 percent of respondents who experienced identity theft felt they couldn’t trust their family, and 55 percent said they couldn’t trust their friends6.
Victims of Identity Theft: Loss of Trust in Family & Friends
45.5% Couldn’t Trust Family
55% Couldn’t Trust Friends
At the risk of sounding too alarmist, just because others have experienced identity theft at the hands of people they know doesn’t mean you will. Data is sparse, and regardless of who commits the crime, there are ways you can protect yourself (just read our IdentityForce review).
5. Most Common Types of Identity Theft
Data collected by the FTC and compiled by the Insurance Information Institute (III) shows that, in 2019, the most common form of identity theft was credit card fraud, which alone accounted for 45.7 percent of all reported identity theft cases4. In second place are miscellaneous forms of identity theft, including online shopping fraud, insurance fraud and social media fraud.
The Most Common Forms of Identity Theft
45.7% Credit card fraud – new accounts
30.9% Miscellaneous identity theft*
8.2% Mobile telephone – new accounts
8.1% Business or personal loan
7.1% Auto loan or lease
*Miscellaneous identity theft includes online shopping and payment account fraud, email and social media fraud, and medical services, insurance and securities account fraud, and other identity theft
6. Identity Theft by State: Where Is Identity Theft Most Common?
In the early 2010s, Florida was the state with the most cases of identity theft per 100,000 people. However, in 2019, Georgia took the first spot, with 427 cases per 100,000 people13. Florida takes second place in 2019, though, with California, Nevada and Texas following closely behind4.
7. What Are the Odds of Getting Your Identity Stolen?
About one in 15 people fell victim to identity theft in the United States5 in 2019, according to IdentityForce. The odds are greater in the U.S. compared to other countries, though. U.S. identity theft rates are around twice as high as the global average and three times as high as Germany and France14.
8. The Financial Impact of Identity Theft
In 2016, 26 percent of identity theft victims borrowed money from family or friends to pay for identity theft-related expenses, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)3,, while 22 percent of victims also took time off of work and 6.7 percent of them took out a payday loan.
9. The Emotional Impact of Identity Theft
Although the economic impact of identity theft shows more clearly through statistics, the emotional distress an identity theft victim faces can’t be understated. In its 2018 Aftermath report, the ITRC found that 84.1 percent of surveyed victims had trouble sleeping6. Another 77.3 percent reported higher stress levels and 54.5 percent reported persistent aches and pains as well as increased fatigue.
The Negative Personal Impacts of Identity Theft
84.1% Sleep affected
63.6% Problems concentrating
aches, pains, headaches and/or cramps
56.8% Stomach issues
54.5% Increased fatigue or decreased energy
50% Lost interest in activities or hobbies
10. How Long Does It Take to Clear Identity Theft?
Clearing identity theft may take longer than you think. The ITRC’s 2017 Aftermath report found that 61.9 percent of surveyed victims had yet to clear their identity theft3. That’s contrasted with 16.8 percent of those surveyed who resolved the issue within six months and 2.6 percent who took more than five years.
11. How Long Does it Take to Spot Identity Theft?
Of those surveyed in 2017 by the ITRC, 42.5 percent said that they discovered their identity theft within three months of the theft occurring3. Although a hopeful statistic, it took 16.1 percent of participants more than three years.
Amount of Time Before Victims Spot Identity Theft
42.5% 0-3 months
12.1% 4-6 months
13.2% 7-12 months
6.3%. 13-24 months
9.8% 2-3 years
16.1%. More than 3 years
12. Can You Have Your Identity Stolen More Than Once?
Although most identity theft victims only have their identity stolen once, a worrying number of victims fall victim again. Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the ITRC, says that almost a quarter of all identity theft victims the ITRC surveyed were experiencing identity theft for a second time6.
13. How Much Money Do Identity Theft Victims Earn?
In recent years, identity theft reports note a shift in the income levels that criminals target. The ITRC’s 2017 Aftermath survey showed a large increase in the number of victims with a family income of less than $25,000.
In 2013, around 50 percent of respondents had an income of less than $50,000. By 2016, still, around 50 percent of respondents made under $50,000. However, 39.2 percent said they made less than $25,000, a stark increase from the 26.9 percent of people who made under that amount in 20133.
14. Does ID Theft Recovery Work?
Identity theft recovery can work, but most identity theft complaints are met with dissatisfaction. The ITRC found that around 43 percent of people were dissatisfied with the FTC, while 46 percent were dissatisfied with financial services, such as banks and credit unions6.
15. How Expensive Are Stolen Credit Cards?
Symantec, the company behind Norton Security, found that a single stolen credit card can cost as little as $0.50 on the dark web7. Cards with full details start at $1 and go up to $45, and magnetic stripe track data — the data associated with the stripe on the back of a credit card — costs anywhere from $5 to $60.
16. Identity Scams Are the Most Common in the U.S.
The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network received more identity theft complaints than any other kind in 2019, accounting for over 20 percent of all complaints8. Imposter scams — which are similar to identity theft, just without access to private information — accounted for another 20 percent of complaints.
Breakdown of Consumer Sentinel Network Reports
The Consumer Sentinel Network took in over 3.2 million reports in 2019.
- 53% Fraud: 1.7 million reports
- 20% Identity theft: 650,000 reports
- 27% Other: 900,000 reports
17. How Quickly Does Identity Theft Occur?
Despite the fact that it can take years before victims even realize they’ve had their identity stolen, account takeovers happen remarkably fast. Javelin Strategy and Research estimates that around 40 percent of all activity associated with account takeovers happens within a day of stealing information9.
18. Formjacking Is on the Rise
Symantec found more than 4,800 unique websites were injected with formjacking code in 20187. As we’ll get to next, most of these websites affected aren’t from large corporations. The same Symantec report “shows that it is often small and medium-sized retailers” that fall victim.
19. Small Businesses Leak Personal Data, Too
Although large data breaches from companies like Dropbox are the most publicized, it doesn’t mean corporate breaches are the only concern. CSIdentity found that around 60 percent of all attacks in 2014 targeted small to midsize businesses10. Despite this, the same report found that 51 percent of small businesses don’t invest any money in digital threat mitigation.
20. Is Social Media Dangerous for Identity Theft?
Yes, using social media is dangerous when it comes to identity theft. Javelin Strategy and Research found that digitally connected consumers have an account on around five different platforms11. This alone, according to Javelin Strategy and Research, puts them at a 30 percent higher risk of fraud.
The Future of Identity Theft
Looking ahead to the future, the rates of identity theft will continue to grow — at least based on statistics from the past few years — and shift toward more “digitally infused” lives, as described by the AARP. It may not look the same, however. Instead of physical fraud, where the criminal physically seizes things like credit cards and social security cards, digital fraud is expected to grow.
Juniper Research estimates that card-not-present fraud — that being any card-related fraud where the physical card isn’t required, such as an online translation — is estimated to reach $19.3 billion in losses by 202215. The firm also estimates that online payment fraud will grow 13.7 percent between 2017 and 2022.
It’s not all bad news, though. As the statistics above show, many identity theft victims are dissatisfied with the recovery process, and the process itself can take several years. What we can gather from this data, if anything, is that prevention is the most effective way to combat identity theft.
How to Protect Against Identity Theft
We have a list of the best identity theft protection services, most of which monitor if your information was involved in a data breach as well as generate a number of fraud reports based on your accounts and personal risk. IdentityForce is our first pick, but Identity Guard is an excellent alternative (read our Identity Guard review).
Although we recommend paying for an identity theft protection service if you can — many of which even offer insurance policies — the reality is that lower-income households are dispositionally targeted for identity theft.
If you don’t have the money to pay for a full service, read our guide on the best free identity theft protection. Overall, the paid solutions are better, but some protection is better than no protection.
Identity theft is and will remain a large threat to online security. However, as attacks get more sophisticated, so do the security measures. Identity theft protection is the best way to safeguard yourself, but being careful with what you share online, setting strong passwords and using a VPN can help, too.
Despite the statistics, you can protect yourself using the many online security tools available. So, what tools are you using to protect yourself against identity theft? Are any of the stats above surprising? Let us know in the comments below and check out our data privacy statistics and VPN statistics pieces, too. As always, thanks for reading.
1. Javelin Research
4. Insurance Information Institute
9. Javelin Research
11. Javelin Research
12. Business Insider
13. Insurance Information Institute