US consumers are expecting financial institutions and the government to take urgent action to stem the rising tide of identity theft, according to a survey conducted by payment network Star Systems.
The survey of 2000 adults was conducted for Star by Synovate. It found that 5.6% of respondents had been victims of identity theft, defined as "a criminal's wholesale takeover of another person's identity [including] name, date of birth, social security number, bank and/or loan account number, for fraudulent financial gain."
According to US census data, this translates to just under 12 million people who may have been victims of identity theft. An earlier Star survey, conducted in November 2002, found a similar percentage, 5.5 percent.
When credit/signature debit card fraud and identity theft were combined, close to 15.9% of consumers reported that they had been victims of at least one of these crimes.
Two-thirds of respondents think it's important that financial institutions verify the identity of customers who open bank accounts, and 72% think it's important that banks and credit card companies verify the identity of customers who open credit card accounts. Close to 60% think it is important that retailers require a second form of ID to verify a customer using a credit or signature debit card.
Consumers appear willing to provide a form of government-issued photo ID when conducting financial transactions such as applying for a loan (74%), making a credit card purchase (66%), opening a bank account (74%) or applying for a credit card (68%).
In an effort to provide consumers with another tool in the fight against identity fraud, US credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - are to provide a single toll-free number for victims to report incidences of ID crime. Each company has agreed to share this information and follow a standardised three-step process to post a security alert on the credit file, opt the victim out of preapproved offers of credit or insurance and mail the victim a copy of his or her credit file.