Report Links Increase In ID Theft To Rise In Smartphone Use, Social Media

While smartphones have given millions of Americans something to do on the train instead of staring blankly out the window while wondering where that smell is coming from, they may also be leading to an increase in ID theft.

The folks at Javelin Strategy & Research have released their annual Identity Fraud Report, which found a 13% increase in the number of ID fraud incidents over last year’s study.

Perhaps not surprisingly, smartphone users and people who use social media publicly are putting themselves at the most risk for fraud and theft.

According to the survey, 7% of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud, significantly higher than the rate for the general public. Javelin believes you chalk up this difference to the fact that many smartphone users aren’t doing much to protect their phone, with 62% of users saying they don’t use a password or code for their home screen and 32% admitting to saving login info on their smartphones.

Meanwhile, many social media users are not heeding the many warnings about making their personal information available to the public. And Javelin says that users who have public profiles on sites like Facebook are even more likely to put information online that could be used to steal one’s identity. 68% of those with public profiles shared their basic birthday (day and month) information, while 45% included the year; 63% shared their high school name; 18% shared their phone number; and 12% shared their pet’s name.

Also of interest in the Javelin report is that while ID fraud incidents increased, the dollar amount did not, and consumers’ out-of-pocket costs from fraud have actually dropped 44% since 2004. This improvement is likely due to better fraud alert and notification systems that have been implemented in recent years.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.