SkipToMainContent

How To

How to protect against identity theft + ID theft statistics for 2022

A Black woman sits with her child as they both learn how to prevent identity theft.

February 23, 2022

Knowing how to protect against identity theft is everything in today’s digital age. Why? Because no one wants to wake up to calls about unauthorized credit card charges or Instagram alerts about fake accounts created in your name. However, with 2020 raking in more than 1.4 million ID theft reports in the U.S. alone, this has become an unexpected reality for many people—and that’s just one of many eye-opening identity theft statistics from the past couple of years.

We compiled a list of more than 30 hard facts and ugly truths about ID theft to help you grasp how prevalent identity theft really is and paired them with identity theft protection tips to help prevent yourself from becoming a target both online and off. 

  1. Protect your Social Security number
  2. Remember to check credit reports
  3. Freeze your credit
  4. Shred important documents
  5. Set up banking alerts
  6. Keep an eye on your mailbox
  7. Consider using a digital wallet
  8. Safeguard your mobile devices
  9. Use a VPN
  10. Use strong passwords
  11. Enable two-factor authentication
  12. Install antivirus software

What is identity theft?

An illustration accompanies an identity theft definition to help others learn how to prevent identity theft.


Identity theft occurs when a criminal steals your personal information and uses it to impersonate you, looking to take your money, sensitive data, and other personal assets. 

When cybercriminals commit identity fraud, they might use a stolen identity to:

  • Open new accounts and/or credit lines
  • Receive medical care with your stolen insurance information  
  • Steal tax refunds 
  • Provide your personal credentials in the event of an arrest (name, date of birth, address, etc.) 

What the identity thief is after will determine what kind of theft you’ll have to deal with. Understanding the  different kinds of identity theft tactics can help you learn what identity theft warning signs you should be on the  lookout for and who is most vulnerable.

5 types of identity theft + ID theft warning signs  

Put yourself ahead of today’s identity thieves by learning about five of the most common types of identity theft used to compromise your sensitive data and replicate your identity.  

1. Financial identity theft

An illustration and definition of financial identity theft accompanies ID theft warning signs to help you know how to prevent identity theft.


Many know financial identity theft as the most common type of identity theft—with 47 percent of surveyed  Americans saying they were targets in 2020. This happens when an identity thief attempts to steal passwords,  phone numbers, emails, addresses, Social Security numbers, and other types of personal data to use for their own  financial gain. 

ID theft warning signs:

  • Unexplained charges on your credit card/bank statement 
  • Notifications of a new credit card or loan
  • Calls from debt collectors 

How it occurs: An identity thief gets your personal information and uses it to make purchases, open accounts, and steal your money.

Potential victims: Adults, seniors

2. Criminal identity theft

Criminal identity theft occurs when a person arrested by law enforcement provides your name and other  identifiable information instead of their own. They could potentially do this by getting their hands on a stolen  driver's license or creating a fake ID. 

ID theft warning signs:

  • Court summons received in the mail
  • Unexpected bench warrants for your arrest
  • Failed background checks 

How it occurs: A criminal provides your personal information at the time of their arrest instead of their own.  

Potential victims: Adults, seniors, minors

3. Medical identity theft    

An illustration and definition of medical identity theft accompanies ID theft warning signs to help you know how to prevent identity theft


As surprising as it may seem, medical identity theft is a very present threat—with healthcare data breaches affecting nearly 45 million people this past year. You’ll see this when someone attempts to use another person’s  exposed medical insurance information to receive the care they may not be able to afford on their own.

ID theft warning signs:

  • Unexplained medical bills
  • Maxed out health care coverage
  • Denial of medical coverage notices for issues you don’t have
  • Unpaid medical debt listed on your credit report  

How it occurs: An identity thief uses another person’s medical insurance to get prescriptions, access healthcare  services, and obtain medical supplies. 

Potential victims: Adults, seniors

4. Child identity theft

An illustration and definition of child identity theft ccompanies ID theft warning signs to help you know how to prevent identity theft.


It’s hard to believe someone would target a young one to pursue their own malicious endeavors. However, child  identity theft has become a genuine issue, reaching more than 1.2 million victims in 2021. Criminals may  attempt to use a minor’s name, address, and/or Social Security number to open a new line of credit, create a fake  driver’s license, or even purchase a home. Victims often only become aware once they try to apply for a student  loan or open their first credit card. 

ID theft warning signs:

  • Unexplained bills in a child’s name
  • Debt collection notices via phone or mail issued for a child
  • IRS letters notifying you that a child owes taxes 

How it occurs: A criminal uses a child’s personal information to open new accounts/lines of credit, create fake IDs,  and/or make large purchases. 

Potential victims: Minors

5. Synthetic identity theft

Labeled as the fastest-growing type of identity fraud, synthetic identity theft involves creating fake identities  with real people’s information. Identity thieves can blend stolen addresses, birthdates, and Social Security  numbers to make fake personas. They may then use those identities to carry out the usual crimes associated with identity fraud, such as credit card and insurance fraud.

ID theft warning signs:

  • Compromised Social Security number
  • Notifications of a new credit card or loan
  • Calls from debt collectors 

How it occurs: An identity thief blends stolen credentials together to create fake personas from real identities.

Potential Victims: Adults, seniors, minors

How to help guard against identity theft

Twelve illustrations accompany the identity theft prevention tips that can help prevent identity theft.


Use these tips to guard against identity theft and to send a message to cybercriminals at large that they might want to find another line of work. 

1. Protect your Social Security number 

Always protect your Social Security number—to identity thieves, it's like finding a pot of gold. If someone asks you to provide your SSN, always ask why and never hand it over if you can’t guarantee its protection. Other best  practices include storing it in a safe place and shredding all paperwork containing it before throwing them 
away.

2. Remember to check credit reports

Keeping an eye on your credit score and reviewing reports on a regular basis can help you to catch any suspicious  activity early on. Additionally, some institutions offer free weekly credit reports until April 20,  2022—all in an effort to help you stay vigilant and try to put fears of identity theft at bay.

3. Freeze your credit

Freezing your credit temporarily restricts access to your credit history. This prevents identity thieves from opening  new lines of credit or taking out loans in your name. It’s one of the best ways to put a stop to identity thieves  because it's free to do with all three of the major credit bureaus.

4. Shred important documents

You should always shred important documents and remember to delete any unneeded files containing financial documents from your desktop and trash folder. Identity thieves often fish through trash cans and hack into computers for sensitive documents to put their plans in motion.

5. Set up banking alerts

Many banks offer you the option of opting in to email and text notifications. These alert you when you or  someone else makes charges on your account. You should enable these notifications to stay on top of what  transactions hit your account and where they’re from in case you run into any unexplained purchases.  

6. Keep an eye on your mailbox

Mail theft affected almost 1,100 U.S. homes this past year. One of the best ways you can avoid mail fraud is  remembering to check your at-home mailbox and email inbox daily. Also consider getting a U.S. Postal Service-approved lockable mailbox, put a vacation hold on mail when traveling, or keep eye out for signs that someone is also using your account.

7. Consider using a digital wallet

To ensure your information remains encrypted when making a purchase, you should use a digital wallet. This is an app—typically pre-installed into the software of your smartphone—that stores secure, digital versions of your  credit and debit cards on your phone.

8. Safeguard mobile devices

It’s important to secure your mobile devices to protect against identity theft, as spyware is among the main threats to your mobile security. Remember to always lock your phone and to only download trustworthy apps.

9. Use a VPN

Identity thieves often monitor public Wi-Fi networks to try and steal unprotected information from vulnerable  users. If you are on public Wi-Fi, use a VPN. These encrypt your data and activity so cybercriminals can’t track your digital footprint. 

10. Use strong passwords

Creating strong, unique passwords for all of your online profiles can make it difficult for identity thieves to use  hacking methods likex and password spraying to break into your accounts. Password managers are great at helping you create and organize hack-proof passwords.

11. Enable two-factor authentication

Enabling two-factor authentication on your accounts can help protect against identity thieves from getting into accounts and databases that hold your most important information. With the help of biometric protection from  fingerprint scanning and facial recognition, replicating your identity becomes next to impossible.

12. Install antivirus software

Antivirus software is another tool you can use to add an extra layer of protection against common identity thieves. This can make getting access to your private information much harder and allow you to use your devices with a sense of confidence. 

How to report ID theft

Help protect your personal information and bring criminals to justice by submitting a report if you become a  victim of identity theft. Here are the steps you can take: 

  • Contact a credit bureau: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian are legally required to report instances of  identity fraud with one another once notified.
  • Contact the authorities: The Federal Trade Commission offers personalized recovery plans, guidance, and  pre-filled letters and forms on IdentityTheft.gov to assist you once you contact the police. You can also  speak to someone for assistance if you call by phone at 1-877-438-4338. 

30+ identity theft statistics

Four illustrations accompany identity theft statistics that may help people realize the importance of learning how to prevent identity theft.

Getting some context about the impact of identity theft can allow you to understand why protecting against it is so  important. Check out these identity theft statistics to see why educating yourself on guarding against identity theft  should be one of your main priorities in 2022 and beyond.

How common is identity theft?

Criminals are about  as diligent at compromising identities as we are dedicated to protecting them. Here’s a  snapshot of their persistence over the past couple of years.

  1. Consumers filed 1.4 million identity fraud reports in 2020. (FTC, 2021
  2. 229 million people encountered a fraud attempt in the past year. (AARP, 2021)
  3. An estimated 9 million people have their identities stolen each year. (FTC, 2021)
  4. The number of data breaches involving the compromise of Social Security numbers increased to 83%. (ITRC, 2021)
  5. Identity theft saw a 73% increase in 2020. (FTC, 2021)
  6. 6 in 10 adults worry about becoming a victim of identity theft (Norton, 2021)
  7. FTC received more than 405,000 identity theft reports of personal information used to apply for a government document or benefit. (FTC, 2021)
  8. There were more than 55 million reports of identity theft around the world in the past year (Norton, 2021)
  9. There were more than 390,000 reports of credit card fraud in 2020. (FTC, 2021)
  10. Credit card fraud saw a 44% increase from 2019 to 2020. (FTC, 2021
  11. Identity theft was the most frequent complaint reported by consumers in 2020. (FTC, 2021)

The cost of identity theft

We all know identity fraud is dangerous, but why so? Here are a few identity theft statistics to help paint a clearer  picture.

  1. Child identity theft costs U.S families nearly $1 billion every year. (Javelin, 2021) 
  2. Social Security numbers were the second most compromised credential in 2020. (ITRC, 2021)
  3. Reports predict the global identity theft services market to reach $34 billion by 2028. (Fortune Business Insights, 2021)
  4. 34% of surveyed respondents reported losing money due to fraud in 2020 (FTC, 2021)
  5. Identity theft losses reached $56 billion in 2020. (Javelin, 2021)
  6. It could require up to six months and 200 hours of work to undo the damages of identity theft. (Experian)
  7. Roughly 10% of Americans reported being a victim of identity theft since the start of COVID-19.  (TransUnion)
  8. Traditional identity fraud costs Americans nearly $13 billion. (Javelin, 2021)
  9. Identity theft made up about about 30% of the complaints received by the FTC (FTC, 2021)
  10. U.S. families affected by identity theft lose $1,100, on average. (Javelin, 2021)
  11. Losses from identity theft increased by 42% in 2020. (Aite Novarica, 2021

Identity theft target victims

Identity thieves know that some people are more susceptible to identity theft scams than others. Browse these  identity theft statistics to get insight into who are the main targets.

  1. The top five states for identity theft are Kansas, Rhode Island, Washington, and Nevada. (FTC, 2020 Consumer Sentinel Network)
  2. 16% of Gen Z reported being a victim of identity theft. (TransUnion)
  3. There were almost 24,000 complaints of identity theft reported by people ages 19 and under (FTC, 2020 Consumer Sentinel Network)
  4. The group targeted most for identity theft in 2020 were 30 – 39-year-olds with 306,090 reports submitted. (FTC, 2020 Consumer Sentinel Network)
  5. The second most targeted group for identity theft in 2020 were 40 – 49-year-olds with 302,678 reports submitted. (FTC, 2020 Consumer Sentinel Network)
  6. Millennials are the most common victims of credit card fraud in 2020. (FTC, 2020 Consumer Sentinel Network)

Child Identity theft on the rise  

Minors are often vulnerable to identity fraud because of the clean slate associated with their banking and credit history. Use these identity theft statistics to understand how important it is to protect the identities of today’s youth.

  1. 1 in 50 children were victims of child identity theft in 2021 (Javelin, 2021 Child Identity Fraud)
  2. More than 73% of child identity theft victims know their perpetrators. (Javelin, 2021 Child Identity Fraud)
  3. 54% of households acknowledge that they do not monitor their children’s activity online. (Javelin, 2021 Child Identity Fraud)
  4. Child identity fraud costs a family $372 out-of-pocket to resolve on average. (Javelin, 2021 Child Identity Fraud)
  5. $918 million was lost to child identity fraud in the past year. (Javelin, 2021 Child Identity Fraud)
  6. 1 in 45 children experienced identity exposure due to a data breach in 2021. (Javelin, 2021 Child Identity Fraud

At the end of the day, your identity is, well, yours. And it's your job to protect it. Use the tips and information gathered to lead a life where your privacy and cybersecurity always come first.

An infographic details tips for how to prevent identity theft.

The freedom to connect more securely to Wi-Fi anywhere

With Norton™ Secure VPN, check email, interact on social media and pay bills using public Wi-Fi without worrying about cybercriminals stealing your private information

Try Norton Secure VPN for peace of mind when you connect online


Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

Copyright © 2022 NortonLifeLock Inc. All rights reserved. NortonLifeLock, the NortonLifeLock Logo, the Checkmark Logo, Norton, LifeLock, and the LockMan Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of NortonLifeLock Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and other countries. Firefox is a trademark of Mozilla Foundation. Android, Google Chrome, Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google, LLC. Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Alexa and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Microsoft and the Window logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. The Android robot is reproduced or modified from work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.