Despite high-profile data breaches, identity fraud may be on the decline, according to a study released on Thursday.
The study, based on 5,000 telephone interviews, found that identity fraud has dropped about 12 percent within the sample set, which translates to an overall drop of some $6.4 billion in costs from the crime, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, the analyst firm that conducts the study every year. The firm found that the percentage of the U.S. adult population that experience fraud dropped to 3.7 percent in 2006 from 4.0 percent in 2005. In 2003, when the study was first conducted, the fraud rate was 4.7 percent.
While identity fraud is still a serious criminal issue in the United States, (the) study points to significant identity fraud reduction as a direct result of changes in industry and consumer behaviors, James Van Dyke, president and founder of Javelin, said in a statement announcing the results.
Van Dyke pointed to better data protection, monitoring technologies and services and consumer education as likely reasons supporting a decline.
The results from the study are surprising given the number of high-profile data breaches that occurred in the last few months. In January, retail giant TJX Companies announced that data thieves had stolen an large number of its customers' credit-card information from a server that processed transactions. Recent fraud on the accounts has prompted banks to replace the cards. In December, the University of California, Los Angeles warned that a server containing information on about 800,000 students, faculty members and workers had been exposed by a compromise.
The Javelin study found that the victim's income played a major role in the fraud rate. While Americans with incomes of more than $150,000 had a high rate of fraud, with 7.3 percent reporting incidents, they only took half as long to resolve fraud as victims whose income was less than $15,000.
CheckFree, Visa and Wells Fargo sponsored the study.
Posted by: Robert Lemos