Gartner: Financial fraud hits 7.5 percent of U.S. adults

Many victims of financial fraud don't report the crime to authorities and few of the criminals are prosecuted, according to a new Gartner study.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

About 7.5 percent of U.S. adults lost money as a result of financial fraud last year, mostly due to data breaches, according to a new Gartner study to be released on Tuesday night.

In the survey of nearly 5,000 consumers, 70 percent said they had never been a victim of identity theft fraud. Meanwhile 14 percent said they had had their credit card information used to charge purchases or get money, 7 percent said their debit card was used, 6 percent said a new account had been opened in their name, 5 percent had money transferred out of their account, and 4 percent had had checks forged.

Recovering losses was easier for people victimized by brokerage, credit card, and debit card account fraud compared to victims of new loan account fraud, check forgery, and checking/savings account fraud, partly because victims didn't try to recover money.

Of those who had new accounts opened in their name, 35 percent suffered from a damaged credit rating and slightly more than half were able to restore their rating, usually in less than one month. For about 20 percent it took more than a year, and for 9 percent it took three to five years, the survey found.

Overall, less than one-third of the victims reported the crimes to law enforcement and about 5 percent reported it to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Not only do many victims not report the crime, but many of the crimes go unprosecuted. There were only 564 convictions made for about 800 identity-theft-related fraud cases in 2007, according to the National Institute of Justice's Electronic Crime Program, a part of the U.S. Justice Department.

"The chances of a criminal getting arrested and convicted for identity theft-related fraud are much less than a half of 1 percent," the study said.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that financial fraud victims were twice as likely to change their behavior as a result of security incidents as the average consumer. Many of them opt to use PayPal because they believe it is more secure, the survey found.

The study also looked at why people switch banks and concluded that security and financial health of a bank were of about equal importance to consumers, said Gartner analyst Avivah Litan.

Six percent said they changed banks as a result of their security concerns, compared to 5 percent who cited concerns regarding the financial health of their banks. Twenty-eight percent said they switched banks after being victims of checking/savings account transfer fraud, and 21 percent cited excessive fees.

A recent FTC study found that identity theft was by far the biggest complaint to the agency, representing 26 percent of total problems reported.

Much financial fraud occurs from data breaches at merchants and other service sites. Gartner