Identity theft is on the rise, according to a report released today by Javelin Strategy & Research.

The crime struck almost 12 million victims in 2011, a whopping 13 percent increase from 2010. The main reasons why: the growing number of data breaches and increasing reliance on smartphones and social media.

“It’s no surprise that identity theft continues to be a time-consuming and expensive problem, but it’s just one fraction of the overall identity picture,” said Adam Levin, owner of Identity Theft 911 and Credit.com. “A consumer’s identity portfolio is comprised of many different pieces and financial identity theft is just one portion. Medical, criminal and child identity theft, just to name a few, are some other factors consumers need to consider when monitoring their records for fraud.”

High-profile data attacks on companies  likely contributed to the rise in identity theft crimes in 2011. The number of people who were notified that their information was lost in a data breach in 2011 increased by 67 percent from the previous year.

Smartphone users are about a third more likely to become victims than non-users, according to Javelin. Nearly 7 percent of smartphone users experienced identity fraud in 2011. And 62 percent of smartphone users do not use password protection for their home screens, which means anyone who finds or takes their phones will have access to the information inside.

Other report highlights:

  • •  Social media users are at greater risk of identity theft. Facebook users who friended strangers had a higher fraud rate of about 9 percent, compared with 5 percent for those who didn’t.
  • •  LinkedIn users are increasingly vulnerable. Consumers who used the professional network LinkedIn experienced a 10 percent fraud incidence rate. “Higher income groups, which tend to experience a higher incidence of fraud, are overrepresented among LinkedIn users,” the report said.
  • •  Higher income groups experienced a greater incidence of fraud. Consumers with household incomes more than $150,000 had about an 8 percent fraud rate, compared with consumers in the lowest income bracket, who had roughly a 3 percent incidence of fraud.
  • •  Young people were targets for friendly fraud. More than a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds were victims of friendly fraud, compared with 13 percent of all fraud victims. And friendly fraud victims lost an average of $3,544, a significantly higher loss than the average fraud cost of $1,513.
  • •  Impact on consumers: On average, victims took 50 days to detect identity fraud, spent 12 hours to resolve it, and lost $1,513.
  • •  Means of misuse: Identity thieves are more likely to commit the fraud through online purchases than in person, by phone or mail, or by writing checks.

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, call your insurer or bank, which might provide LifeStages™ Identity Management Services from Identity Theft 911. Or contact us directly.

One of our fraud specialists will guide you and provide practical support until your credit record is restored. The specialist also will help you pursue criminal and civil legal action against the identity thief.

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