Identity theft affected 17.6M, cost $15.4B in 2014: Justice Dept.

Identity theft affected 17.6M, cost $15.4B in 2014: Justice Dept.

Identity theft victims in the United States last year accounted for roughly seven percent of the country’s adult population, a new government report found.

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics announced over the weekend that figures for 2014 suggest an estimated 17.6 million Americans older than 16 had their personal information compromised at least once during the last calendar year.

About half of last year’s identity theft victims were able to resolve their problems within one day, according to the department report released Sunday. The statistics are similar to those from the last time the study was conducted in 2012.

Millions reported suffering from setbacks in 2014 that took months to rectify in some cases. Roughly 1.7 million victims went as far as to describe their experiences as “severely distressing.”

Eighty-six percent of the 17.6 million Americans who had their identity compromised during the last year said fraudsters tried to open up credit card or bank accounts in their name soon after, according to the report. In all, the Justice Department said the total financial loss stemming from identity theft in 2014 was $15.4 billion, down significantly from 2012’s figure of $24.7 billion.

Households with an annual income of more than $70,000 were targeted more frequently than those earning less, the study found, and incidents in which the elderly were victimized by identity theft grew by half-a-million between 2012 and 2014, the report reveals, up from 2.1 million to 2.6 million.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, announced Monday he is sponsoring a bill aiming to cut down on identity theft by encouraging employers to keep Social Security numbers off federal tax documents.

“This bipartisan, common-sense measure will protect Americans from identity fraud by limiting the use of Social Security numbers on the most popular tax forms, including the W-2,” the senator said in a statement. “We must be doing all we can to end this growing problem, which hits seniors especially hard.”

Over 800 residents of the Florida community Mr. Buchanan serves were victims of identity theft last year, according to the Bradenton Herald newspaper. Nine of the 20 U.S. cities with the highest identity theft rates are in Florida, the senator’s office reported.

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