Statistics

How prevalent is identity theft in Alberta? Canada? 

  • “Identity theft is the fastest growing non-violent crime in North America.”[16]
  • In 2005, the number of victims of identity theft in Alberta was 994, with an associated estimated loss of $436,465. Canada-wide, there were 12,409 people affected, with a total of $8,638,436 lost. In 2006, the number of victims in Alberta fell to 612, but the associated loss jumped to $1,439,474. Across Canada, the numbers of victims also fell in 2006, to 7778, but the loss increased dramatically again, to $16,283,776.[17]
    • This corresponds to an approximate 330% increase in loss in Alberta between the two years, and a 189% increase nationwide. (busters)
    • This also illustrates the pattern that, until recently, the number of instances of ID theft was increasing, but, now it is levelling off, as loss figures continue to rise. This indicates a higher per-crime incidence of loss.[18]
  • In Canada, Equifax and TransUnion (the two largest Canadian credit bureaus), receive approximately 1400 to 1800 complaints of identity theft per month.[19]
  • According to the Canadian Banking Association, more than $100 million is spent by the banking industry in Canada fighting fraud and identity theft.[20]
  • In 2006, a poll found that 71 percent of Canadians are “very or somewhat concerned” about becoming a victim of identity theft in the future, 4 percent of Canadians have personally been subject to identity theft, and a further 20 percent know someone who has been affected, bringing the total percentage of Canadians that have been affected by identity theft (whether directly or indirectly) to 24 percent.[21]

How much do Canadians know about protecting their identities?

  • Near 6 in every 10 Canadians always carry their SIN card with them.[22]
  • Almost 1 in 3 Canadians fail to shred documents containing personal information before throwing them out or recycling them.[23]
  • Over 60 percent of Canadians do not review their credit report at least annually, to check for fraudulent activity.[24]

Trends in Identity Theft Crimes: 

  • Identity theft that involves criminal activity often involves the repeated victimization of the same identity by the perpetrator.[25]
  • On average, there is a one year delay in discovering that identity theft has occurred.[26]
  • A survey conducted for Industry Canada by Environics Research Group Limited asked 66 respondents who had experienced identity theft how they thought their information had been compromised. The results were that[27]
    • 21 cited lost or stolen identity documents
    • 17 cited information obtained during an electronic financial transaction
    • 12 cited theft from a computer or PDA (handheld computer)
    • 7 cited theft from a company database
    • 7 cited their mail being stolen or redirected
    • 5 cited being tricked into some sort of scam (email, telephone, etc.)
    • 2 cited a friend or relative misusing their account
  • The same survey also asked the 66 victims how they had discovered their identity had been stolen. The results were that[28]
    • 18 found unauthorized charges on their account
    • 13 were notified by the company where the fraud or theft occurred
    • 11 were notified by their bank
    • 10 lost money
    • 8 were called by a credit card company
    • 5 received a letter from Revenue Canada
    • 4 were called by the Police Department
    • 3 were notified in the mail
    • 3 noticed unauthorized transactions on their utility bills
    • 3 were called by a collection agency
    • 2 noticed their mail stopped arriving
  • 3 out of 10 households in the United States that experienced identity theft discovered it through missing money or unfamiliar charges on an account. 1 out of 4 was contacted by a credit bureau.[29]
  • Phishing now accounts for 20 to 25 percent of identity theft instances.[30]

 Common Abuses of Identities: 

  • Usurping existing credit, phone, utility or bank accounts
  • Opening new credit, phone, utility or bank accounts
  • Selling personal information
  • Forging key identity documents
  • Employment under your name
  • Claiming government benefits or health insurance
  • Avoiding arrest
  • Concealing true identity
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Credit Card fraud
  • Selling stolen goods

 Trends in Common Abuses: 

  • Approximately one third of complaints issued to Phonebusters related to credit cards; ten to twelve percent related to cell phones.[31]
  • A survey conducted for Industry Canada by Environics Research Group Limited found that of the 3 percent (66 of 2002 respondents) of Canadians who had experienced identity theft, they had experienced it in the following ways:[32]
    • 39 experienced charges on their credit card
    • 13 noticed withdrawals from their bank account
    • 12 had their card or card number stolen
    • 8 had their computer hacked or stolen
    • 6 had stolen cheques cashed on their accounts
    • 4 had their health care card number used
    • 2 had a loan or line of credit set up in their name
  • Two out of three households in the United States that experienced identity theft reported monetary loss as a result of the theft.[33]
  • According to the Federal Trade Commission, these were the reported abuse statistics for ID theft in the U.S.:[34]
    • 44 percent experienced credit card fraud
    • 22 percent experienced phone or utility fraud
    • 17 percent experienced bank fraud
    • 16 percent experienced other forms of identity theft fraud, including medical, internet, bankruptcy, and rental.
    • 9 percent experienced employment fraud.
    • 8 percent experienced government documents or benefits related fraud.
    • 6 percent experienced loan fraud.
    • 8 percent experienced attempted identity theft.

 Research 

  • There is currently very little research on identity theft.
  • The provincial and territorial governments across Canada commissioned a report, "Working Together to Prevent Identity Theft," which collected input from consumers and businesses on how the threat of ID theft could be abated. It focused on public education and policy changes.[35]
  • Phonebusters is currently collecting data to identify trends in identity theft in order to aid current and future investigations of this crime.

 Who commits identity theft? 

  • Identity theft has been linked to organized crime and terrorism.[36]
  • Methamphetamine addicts: recently, law enforcement agencies have noticed an association between the rise in methamphetamine’s popularity and identity theft.[37]
  • It has been reported that around nine percent of identity theft cases are carried out by family members.[38]
  • One US study found that as much as 70 percent of personal information stolen from companies can be attributed to theft by internal employees. It also found that personal information was more likely to be taken from health care institutions than financial ones.[39]

 Who is victimized by identity theft? 

  • “Households headed by persons age 18-24 and those in the highest income bracket ($75,000 or more) [are] the most likely to experience identity theft.”[40]
  • Other trends in identity theft now show that it is possible that women, households with more children, and single parent households may be at a higher risk of identity theft than others, and that risk decreases with age.[41]
  • Consumer behaviour can “create” victims. The number of credit accounts and how often they are used could be considered operating variables that affect risk, as could consumer precautions. This may account for the differences across demographic groups already mentioned as well.[42]

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