Identity Theft Trends for 2011 and Beyond

Info-theft via social networking is just one of the recent identity theft trends. Here are a few more

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, a quick look at identity theft trends reveals that the pilfering of financial information is still one of our biggest domestic problems. There's good news, though: ID theft has dropped by 28% since 2009, so those public awareness programs just might be working!

But it remains by far the most common form of consumer fraud in the United States. About 21% of all complaints to the Federal Trade Commission are ID theft related; the nearest category, debt collector issues, stands at about 9%.

The FTC complaint data, however, is just part of the story, since only a small number of those actually scammed complain to the FTC. Millions of Americans fall prey to identity theft every year, but most don't bother to report it... and some of us never even realize it.

What's Up, What's Down

Phishing is down somewhat over the past 18 months. It's too soon to tell if this is because people are more cautious about responding to emails that a) appear to be from genuine companies or b) claim to be from some Nigerian prince, or if the thieves are just sending fewer emails because they're busy with other things.

The smart money's on the latter possibility, because sorry to say, people are hugely gullible. We recently covered the Facebook phishing phenomenon, which is possible because people are too free about sharing their personal info with people on social networks.

Oh, Dear. What Else?

Meanwhile, hacking has become more of a problem. Digital security experts assure us daily, it seems, that our financial data is safer than ever due to increasingly complex security measures... but hackers are pretty smart, and whenever someone comes up with something new, they work around it.

Even as the encryption gets better and more reliable, hackers are turning to old standbys like keystroke monitoring software, which makes it easy to hack passwords; and new software, which can now copy your desktop remotely.

The Classics

Even as we're freaking out about all the ways that clever thieves can steal our identities online, they haven't forgotten the classics. Postal identity theft is on the rise, having increased by 100% in 2009 and 2010 alone.

It's fairly simple to divert a person's snail mail, or simply to take a pre-approved credit card offer from a mailbox, sign up, and change the respondent address. That way, the victim never even knows they've been victimized until well after the thief has racked up a ton of debt.

So keep an eye on those identity theft trends -- and we'll do the same, so we can let you know whenever something new and nasty pops up.

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