Study: 10,000 Identity Theft Rings in U.S.


Identity theft is big business. Now, we’re finding out exactly how big. The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million of us have our identity stolen each year. It’s topped the list of consumer complaints filed with the agency for the past 12 years running, garnering about 15% of all complaints. And new research from ID Analytics shows that there are roughly 10,000 identity theft rings in the United States involved in this fast-growing illegal enterprise.

ID Analytics’ ID:A Labs looked at more than a billion applications for bank cards, store credit cards and wireless service over a nearly four-year period. Its algorithm detected the presence of identity thieves by looking for discrepancies in personal information or constantly-changing addresses, red flags that indicate fraud.

Some geographic areas have higher concentrations of identity thieves. The most popular “home base” states for crooks are Alabama, the Carolinas, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. “There appears to be a ‘belt of fraud’ that runs through the rural Southeast, extending from Virginia to Mississippi, with significant activity in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Alabama,” the report says.

While “rings” can consist of as few as two people coordinating their efforts to steal people’s identity, some are much larger. The study finds that a surprising number of fraud rings consist of families working together.

(MORE: Here’s How Your Identity Will Be Stolen: The Top 10 Scams)

ID Analytics classifies a few different kinds of identity theft: The first is a lost or stolen account. While this is a headache for the victim, closing the account usually takes care of the issue since the crook can’t pretend to be you in another forum. It’s like a benign tumor: It’s still bad news, but it doesn’t spread to other areas.

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