Identity fraud adapts to new defenses, study finds


Identity fraud is one of the biggest fears associated with data breaches involving personally identifiable information. No one wants someone to compromise their financial or credit accounts, or worse yet — have their identity successfully stolen. But according to a recently published survey, the number of such victims increased by 8 percent and reached 16.7 million U.S. consumers in 2017.

The Javelin Strategy & Research 2018 Identity Fraud Study, released this week, found that fraudsters found 1.3 million more victims that the previous report and $16.8 billion in total stolen. Interestingly, but not unexpectedly, new defensive technologies have changed the nature of attacks. It seems embedded chip cards and terminals continue to shift the types of fraud away from physical cards and in-person transactions to online.

“This last year saw a notable change in how fraud is being committed. While credit card accounts remained the most prevalent targets for new account fraud, there was significant growth in the opening of new intermediary accounts, such as email payments (e.g. PayPal) and other internet accounts (e.g. e-commerce merchants such as Amazon) by fraudsters. Although not as easily monetized alone, these account types are invaluable in helping fraudsters transfer funds from the existing accounts of their victims,” Javelin Strategy & Research wrote.

The study also found that, for the first time ever, Social Security number compromises exceeded credit card compromises 35 percent to 30 percent respectively. “Finally, data breaches are causing consumers to lose trust in institutions. These trends combined to cause consumers to shift the perceived responsibility for preventing fraud from themselves to other entities, such as their financial institution or the companies storing their data,” the statement said.

There were four primary trends identified in the study:

  • Record high incidents of identity fraud – In 2017, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud, an increase of almost one million victims from the previous year. This increase was driven by growth in both existing non-card fraud and account takeover.
  • Account takeover grew significantly. Account takeover tripled over the past year, reaching a four-year high. Total account takeover losses reached $5.1 billion, a 120 percent increase from 2016.
  • Online shopping presents the greatest fraud opportunity: Embedded cards – EMV is driving more fraudsters to seek online channels for fraud. Card Not Present Fraud is now 81 percent more likely than point-of-sale fraud, the greatest gap Javelin has observed.
  • Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated – Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated in their attacks, and using more complex and difficult to detect monetization schemes. One and a half million victims of existing account fraud had an intermediary account opened in their name first. This is 200 percent greater than the previous high.

The study found that more people are concerned with the risks associated with data breaches. The percentage of consumers surveyed who are concerned about fraud rose from 51 percent in 2016 to 69 percent in 2017. Javelin also found 63 percent of consumers said that they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about the threat of breaches, but many are unsure that they have the ability to effectively protect themselves.

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