The FTC’s figure for identity theft in 2005 was 8.3 million Americans over the age of 18, a drop of about 16% from the 9.9 million it measured in 2003. (2005 is the most recent year for which they have data.) However, not only are consumer groups saying that these numbers are faulty, even the FTC admits in a footnote that “its conclusion is not ‘statistically significant’ because the sample size was too small.”
A spokeswoman for the National Consumers League says, “These surveys are helpful but may not show what’s really happening.” For instance, if consumers are unaware that their identities have been stolen, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to respond accurately to survey questions. On the other side of the fence, since corporations aren’t required to disclose fraud losses, there’s no way to rely on them for accurate data either.
Another report from Javelin Strategy & Research backs up the FTC’s claim and also says that ID theft has continued to drop, down to 8.4 million in 2007. But then a Gartner study says there were 15 million victims of the crime from August 2005 to August 2006. Javelin says Gartner’s results are skewed because they used a web-based survey that automatically biases the data against the poor who don’t have web access. We say just protect your damned networks, retailers, and stop saving all of our data for years longer than is necessary.