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  • Thursday, December 16, 2010
  • Contact: Kara McCarthy (202) 307-1241
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Identity theft crimes spanned two years prior to survey

WASHINGTON - An estimated 11.7 million persons, representing five percent of all persons age 16 or older in the United States, were victims of identity theft during the two years prior to being surveyed in 2008, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The financial losses due to the identity theft totaled more than $17 billion.

Identity theft was defined in the survey as the attempted or successful misuse of an existing account, such as a debit or credit account, misuse of personal information to open a new account, or misuse of personal information for other fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining government benefits.

Approximately 6.2 million victims (three percent of all persons age 16 or older) experienced the unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing credit card account, the most prevalent type of identity theft. An estimated 4.4 million persons reported the misuse or attempted misuse of a banking account, such as a debit, checking or savings account.

Another 1.7 million persons experienced the fraudulent misuse of their information to open a new account, and about 618,900 persons reported the misuse of their information to commit other crimes, such as fraudulently obtaining medical care or government benefits or providing false information to law enforcement during a crime or traffic stop. About 16 percent of all victims (1.8 million persons) experienced multiple types of identity theft during the two-year period.

About 23 percent of all victims suffered an out-of-pocket financial loss due to the victimization. Of the victims who experienced a personal loss, the average out-of-pocket financial loss was $1,870, with half losing $200 or less.

Approximately 40 percent of victims had some idea about how their identifying information was obtained. Of those who knew how the theft occurred, about 30 percent believed their information was stolen during a purchase or other transaction. Another 20 percent believed the information was stolen from a wallet or checkbook, followed by 14 percent who thought the information was stolen from personnel or other files at the office.

Men and women were equally likely to experience identity theft, but a greater percentage of persons ages 16 to 24 (6 percent) were victims of at least one type of identity theft than persons age 65 or older (3.7 percent). Persons living in households with an income of $75,000 or more were more likely to experience identity theft (7 percent) than persons in households with lower incomes.

About 17 percent of identity theft victims reported the incident to a law enforcement agency. The majority of victims (68 percent) reported the theft to a bank or credit card company.

More than 40 percent of victims spent a day or less resolving the financial and credit problems associated with the identity theft. An estimated 27 percent spent more than a month clearing up the problems.

Victims who spent more than six months resolving the problems associated with the identity theft were more likely to report that the experience was severely distressing, compared to victims who cleared up the problems in a day or less. Overall, about 20 percent of victims described the identity theft as severely distressing.

Approximately three percent of victims reported that the victimization caused significant problems at work or school. Six percent reported experiencing significant relationship problems with family or friends as a result of the theft.

These findings are based on data from the 2008 Identity Theft Supplement (ITS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The ITS surveyed over 56,000 persons age 16 or older in the United States about the types of identity theft experienced within a two-year period.

The report, Victims of Identity Theft, 2008 (NCJ 231680), was written by BJS statisticians Lynn Langton and Michael Planty. Following publication, the report can be found at

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics' statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at


The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at