Identity Theft in 2007, Predictions for 2008

Consumers, government agencies, educational and medical facilities and businesses all need to handle personal information with the greatest care to prevent ID theft.

by / December 19, 2007

At the end of each year, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) 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.

 2007 in Review

  • Check schemes are increasing as credit issuers make it more difficult to get credit without authentication. Identity thieves are stealing existing checks was well as counterfeiting new checks.
  • Scammers 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).
  • Domestic identity theft continues to be a problem, often including former significant others.
  • There is a symbiotic relationship between identity theft with other crimes to finance and enhance the growth of highly profitable crimes including drugs, terrorism, and illegal trafficking of goods and persons.
  • There continues to be a lack of understanding regarding the emotional impact of this crime on the victims, both short term and long term.
  • 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" environment.
  • 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."

  • Identity theft is becoming a lucrative career path.
  • 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 and ways to trick you into divulging personal information.
  • 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 governmental actions.
  • 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.