Financial fraud hit 7.5% of Americans in 2008 - Gartner

Financial fraud hit 7.5% of Americans in 2008 - Gartner

Around 7.5% of US adults lost money to financial fraud last year, with a string of high profile data breaches the main cause, according to a survey from Gartner.

The survey of nearly 5000 US adults shows 14% had their credit card data used, seven per cent their debit card, six per cent said a new account had been opened in their name, five per cent were the victims of money transfer fraud and four percent had cheques forged.

A data breach was cited as the reason for the fraud by 19% of victims, with 16% blaming the theft of their wallet and 13% online scams such as phishing.

Reported data breaches in the US during 2008 were up 47% on the previous year, to 656, of which 78 affected financial institutions, according to a recent study from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

A single breach at BNY Mellon Shareowner Services resulted in the loss of around 12.5 million records - including social security numbers, names and addresses - when a box containing unencrypted customer data tapes went missing in transit in February.

In January Heartland Payment Systems revealed it has found malicious software in its processing system, potentially compromising the card data of millions of people.

The Gartner survey also shows that just a third of victims report crimes to law enforcement and about five per cent contact the Federal Trade Commission. The reluctance to report identity theft related fraud may be contributing to poor conviction rates of less than 0.5%.

Gartner says financial losses are highest in the case of new-account, credit card and brokerage fraud, with the average cost per incident totalling $1097, $929 and $900, respectively.

Victims of brokerage, credit card and debit card account fraud find it easiest to recover their losses, receiving an average of 100%, 86% and 77% of the funds stolen, respectively.

In contrast, victims of new-account fraud only recover 42% on average, for cheque forgery the figure is 48% and for checking or savings account fund transfer fraud, 54%.

New-account fraud is also the most difficult from which to recover, with 35% of victims suffering further from a damaged credit rating, which can take years to restore.

Gartner says that fraud victims are twice as likely to change their online banking behaviour and suggests PayPal has received a "big boost" as customers concerned by security are flocking to the service.

A relatively modest six per cent of all respondents say they changed banks as a result of security concerns but that number rises to 28% among victims of current and savings account transfer fraud.

Avivah Litan, VP, distinguished analyst, Gartner, says: "Financial institutions that take security seriously will be rewarded with greater customer retention, which is a smart move when you consider that the cost of acquiring new customers is typically much higher than the cost of retaining existing ones."

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