COSTA MESA, Calif. -- It appears more people than not are seeing their identity stolen these days.
According to an Experian-Gallup Personal Credit Index survey, one in five consumers report that they have had their financial information stolen including a bank or credit card number.
The index is based on a monthly nationwide survey of households and measures four key areas related to credit: level of debt, monthly payment burden, credit rating and debt extension capability. The sampling was conducted in July, August and September 2006 and included 3,032 adults, age 18 and over, randomly selected from across the country. The sampling error is plus or minus two percentage points.
Approximately one in seven, or 14%, say they have had their personal information stolen, such as a birth certificate, driver's license or Social Security number. Combined, 26% of Americans report being the victim of one type of theft, while 7% report experiencing both.
Three in 10 consumers among the following demographic groups report having had their personal or financial information stolen: college graduates (30%), those reporting annual household incomes of $75,000 or more (30%), people residing in the Western region of the country (31%), and Americans between the ages of 30 and 49 (30%). Twenty-one percent of those who had experienced either form of theft said that they knew the person who stole their information.
Seventy-five percent of Americans think credit card fraud is identity theft. Although about half (49%) of all Americans say they think it is unlikely that they will be a victim of identity theft, 70% said they would take more steps to prevent being a victim if they knew what to do.
"Securing personal and financial information should be part of a person's lifestyle," said Ty Taylor, president of Experian Consumer Direct. "A few things for people to keep in mind that can help protect their financial and personal information include shredding sensitive information, never providing personal or financial information to an unknown source and keeping track of the information in their credit report--changes in a credit report could be an indication of fraud."
About one-third (34%) of Americans think there is nothing they can do to prevent what they perceive as identity theft. The percentage is even higher, 42%, among those under the age of 30.
"While every American should be aware of the risks associated with having their financial or personal information stolen, young adults, in particular, should recognize that the theft is often committed by someone they know," said Dennis Jacobe, chief economist for The Gallup Organization. "In fact, the results of our survey show that 42 percent of those in this younger age group knew the person who stole their information."
Regarding consumers' perceptions about their current and future credit situation, consumers became more negative this past month, as the Experian-Gallup Personal Credit Index declined by seven points to 85.
"The plummeting real-estate markets and high consumer debt loads may be offsetting the benefits of today's much lower gas prices at the pump," Jacobe said. "The extent of the housing plunge may well determine whether the economy experiences a so-called soft landing--or something worse--in 2007." --firstname.lastname@example.org