Fighting digital fraud has always been a game of wack-a-mole, but those pesky moles keep getting smarter — finding new ways to use stolen information to commit lucrative scams. And despite increasing efforts to stop them, the bad guys are winning.
The “disease of identity fraud” has now reached “the level of an epidemic,” according to the just-released 2018 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research. Last year was the best year ever for fraudsters, with more victims and more money stolen. The numbers reported by Javelin are eye-opening:
- Identity fraud hit another record high in 2017. An estimated 16.7 million Americans were victimized last year, a jump of eight percent from 2016 or 1.3 million more victims.
- The fraudsters successfully stole $16.8 billion in 2017, the highest amount in four years. They’re shopping online with stolen credit card numbers, draining money from bank accounts, taking control of mobile phone accounts, even stealing loyalty rewards points.
- For the first time ever, data breaches compromised more Social Security numbers (35 percent) than credit card numbers (30 percent). The Equifax breach was largely responsible for that.
Al Pascual, Javelin’s research director and head of fraud and security, expects 2018 to be another record year for identity fraud because thieves have adapted to new security measures.
“They’re smarter now. They have all the data they need to commit fraud and they know exactly how to use it,” Pascual told NBC News. “They’re getting more sophisticated faster than we can respond — and that’s the big problem.”