By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

As further proof that identity theft and fraud is a fast-growing crime that shows no sign of slowing down, a recent survey found that the number of identity theft and fraud victims in the United States increased 12 percent to affect 11.1 million adults in 2009, while the total annual fraud amount in the country increased by 12.5 percent to $54 billion.

The recently released 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report — independently produced by Javelin Strategy & Research for the past seven consecutive years — also found that protection of data by consumers and businesses helped identity theft victims decrease the time needed to resolve fraud while also reducing or eliminating costs for consumers.

According to the survey, the average fraud resolution time dropped 30 percent to 21 hours. In addition, nearly half of identity theft and fraud victims filed police reports, which doubled the reported arrests, tripled the prosecutions, and doubled the percentage of convictions associated with identity theft and fraud in 2009.

Other key survey findings included the following:

  • Small business owners should exercise caution since they suffered identity fraud at one-and-a-half times the rate of other adults, mostly due to the fact that small office and home office business owners use personal accounts when making business transactions and make more transactions than typical adults.
  • Javelin believes the 12 percent increase in the number of identity fraud incidents from 2008 to 2009 — the highest level since the survey started in 2003 — may be due to the recent Great Recession since, historically, higher rates of fraud occur during tough economic times.
  • Data breaches continued to compromise personal information, with the Full Name (63 percent) and Physical Address (37 percent) continuing to be the identification most likely to be compromised in a data breach. Health Insurance Information, with a year-over-year increase of 4 percent, is increasingly being targeted.
  • Consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 (also known as “Millennials”) are the slowest to detect identity theft and fraud, taking nearly twice as many days to detect identity theft and fraud compared to other age groups. They are also the least likely to monitor their accounts and are victims for longer periods of time.

Overall, the number of identity theft and fraud victims in the U.S. in 2009 grew to nearly 5 percent of the population. Since businesses are helping to prevent identity theft, protect consumer identities, and respond to fraud incidents, consumers are benefitting as a result and out of pocket costs reached an all-time low of $373 in 2009, according to the survey.

Along with businesses, consumers can play a key role in preventing, detecting, and resolving identity theft and fraud committed against them. Recommendations for prevention, detection, and resolution of identity theft and fraud include:

  • Preventing criminal access to paper documents;
  • Preventing high-tech criminal access to information online;
  • Detecting unauthorized activity in existing information;
  • Detecting fraudulent establishment of new accounts, and;
  • Reporting problems immediately and taking advantage of loss protection offers.

For more information about the fast-growing problem of identity theft and fraud, visit to read the latest news on the subject. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) will post additional information in the future on how to prevent and protect against identity theft and fraud.