Identity Theft Rose 13 Percent in 2011 with Help from Social Media and Smart Phones

Fueled in part by the rise in the use of smart phones and social media by consumers, as well as a large number of data breaches, identity theft incidents in the United States rose by 13 percent in 2011 to affect nearly 12 million Americans, according to the ‘2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier’ survey released by Javelin Strategy & Research. To download the identity theft survey from Javelin, visit

The report found that identity theft increased by 13 percent in 2011 as more than 11.6 million adults became victims in the United States. However, while the number identity theft incidents increased, the dollar amount stolen remained steady. In addition, consumer out-of-pocket costs from identity theft have decreased by 44 percent since 2004, mostly due to improved prevention and detection tools. Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Social media behaviors put consumers at risk of identity theft: The survey found certain social media behaviors had higher incidence rates of identity theft than all consumers. Despite warnings that social media networks are a great resource for identity theft, consumers still share a significant amount of personal information frequently used to authenticate a consumer’s identity. Specifically, 68 percent of people with public social media profiles shared their birthday information, 63 percent shared their high school name, 18 percent shared their phone number, and 12 percent shared their pet’s name – all examples of personal information a company would use to verify an individual’s identity.
  • Smart phone owners experienced greater incidences of identity theft: The survey found seven percent of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud, a one-third higher incidence rate compared to the general public. Part of this increase may be attributed to consumer smart phone behavior, as 32 percent of smart phone owners did not update to a new operating system when it became available, 62 percent did not use a password on their home screen – enabling anyone to access their information if the phone is lost – and 32 percent saved login information on their device.
  • Data Breaches increased causing more damage from identity theft: The survey found another likely contributing factor to the rise in identity theft was the 67 percent increase in the number of Americans impacted by data breaches in 2011 compared to 2010. Victims of data breaches were 9.5 times more likely to be a victim of identity theft than consumers who did not receive a data breach letter. 

Now in its ninth consecutive year, the Javelin Strategy & Research survey is the nation’s longest-running study of identity theft, which is defined as the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information to achieve illicit financial gain. As for the methodology used for the survey, Javelin conducted a survey of a representative sample of 5,022 U.S. adults, including 818 identity theft victims, in October 2011 to identify important findings about the impact of identity theft. The ‘2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier’ from Javelin Strategy & Research is available at:

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