Identity theft

America’s fastest growing crime problem points us to some numbers:

When we talk about crime at the city level, we tend to focus on violent crime and property crime. These two categories don’t encompass the entire universe of illegal behavior, but they cover crimes that a) have victims, and b) local police can actually¬† investigate. Property and violent crime affect us where we live and work, and we expect local government to do something about them.

But even though these categories seem comprehensive, neither one includes identity theft. Considering identity theft now costs Americans nearly twice as much as property crime, that’s an odd omission. In a recent report, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statisticsfound that total losses attributed to identity theft in 2012 were $24.6 billion, compared to $13.9 billion for property crimes. Not only is the total loss amount higher for identity theft, the mean and median loss per incident is roughly double (see the chart at right).

Because financial institutions are capable of and willing to resolve many identity fraud cases, victims don’t see as much need to involve police. And yet the above table shows that 15 percent of victims didn’t know they could report their problem to their local police departments, and 20 percent didn’t think the police could do anything to help them (those numbers are even higher for people who are the victims of personal information fraud).