Identity theft can hit consumers in a number of ways, but when it comes to cases of reported fraud, it seems that criminals are now relying far more often on payments made with credit cards than other methods.
Credit cards were used in nearly 56 percent of all fraudulent transactions conducted in 2011, the most recent year for which data was available, according to the third survey on Consumer Fraud in the United States from the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Economics. In all, of the 36.2 million fraudulent incidents reported to the agency in 2011, 20.2 million involved credit card payments. The next-closest payment type was related to consumers’ checking accounts, either as a result of the fraudsters taking money directly out of an account, or using a debit card. However, there were just 5.4 million cases of this type of fraud, accounting for less than 15 percent of all reported cases.
More troubling for borrowers, though, is just how common credit card fraud is becoming, the report said. A similar report from 2005 found that fewer than four in 10 instances of fraud involved payments made with credit cards, while closer to 30 involved checking or debit accounts. This indicates that a major shift has taken place in the six years between the two studies, and only fraud related to money orders and telephone accounts have seen increased activity, and those make up relatively small proportions of all reported cases.
The age group most likely to be affected by any type of fraud was those between 45 and 54 years old, as they accounted for 14.3 percent of all victims, the report said. Meanwhile, the second-largest group of victims was those between 35 and 44 years old, making up 12.1 percent of reported incidents. Interestingly, those 65 and up accounted for 13.8 percent combined of total victims (7.3 percent for people 65 to 74 years old, and 6.5 percent for those 75 and older), despite the fact that it’s commonly believed that older Americans are more at risk for identity theft and other types of fraud.
With incidents of fraud rising overall, it is becoming more vital for consumers to keep close eyes on their accounts, checking statements and bills as frequently as possible to check for unauthorized transactions.