According to the latest data from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), the number of publicly reported data breaches in the U.S. rose by more than 40 percent in 2007.
The ITRC cited 443 publicly reported breaches in 2007 as of December 24. That compares to 315 publicized breaches in 2006. In all, 127 million data records were exposed during 2007, compared to nearly 20 million in 2006. In 2005, the ITRC reported 158 publicly disclosed breaches exposing about 65 million records.
Identity theft continues to thrive despite efforts by governmental agencies, businesses, consumer advocates, and law enforcement. Identity thieves keep finding innovative new ways to steal, and are becoming more sophisticated and skilled at their craft.
On the positive side, there has been improved communication among businesses, consumers, and law enforcement as to the causes and possible solutions to reduce identity theft.
Predictions for 2008
"Identity theft is like the never-ending story," ITRC Founder Linda Foley said in a statement. "It acts like an oil spill that spreads in yet another direction with the ocean currents and wind despite best efforts to contain it."
One need look only at news reports to see that identity thieves are getting younger and younger. Recently, two people in their early 20s were arrested. The duo was in possession of sophisticated forgery equipment, which, according to the ITRC, is a strong indicator that identity theft is becoming a lucrative career path.
The ITRC offered several disturbing predictions for 2008. For example, the ITRC predicts identity theft will continue to grow more international in scope. Scams will become more sophisticated and will be harder to detect, as thieves become more industrious and skilled at designing viruses and ways to trick people into divulging personal information.
The group also is predicting an increase in the number of data breaches due to poor information-handling policies. In addition, the ITRC predicts contradictory studies that do not agree on facts such as the overall cost of identity theft. These conflicting reports, the ITRC maintains, will lead to confusion and misguided legislation.
Looking on the Bright Side
On the positive side, the ITRC believes businesses will develop and implement better ways to authenticate the identity of applicants.
What's more, the group said, there will be a higher recognition of identity theft as a crime by law enforcement, which will lead to more reports written to assist victims in taking advantage of state and federal victim-recovery rights.
"The Identity Theft Resource Center, when making some negative predictions for 2008, truly hopes that we will be wrong," remarked ITRC Executive Director Jay Foley.
"We will work collaboratively with others toward making the positive predictions come true," Foley added. "The ITRC will be watching closely as the year 2008 unfolds."