41 Million Americans Have Had Identities Stolen

Another 49 Million Know Someone Who Has Been Affected

NEW YORK, Oct. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — 41 million U.S. adults have had their identities stolen, according to a new (NYSE: RATE) report, and another 49 million know someone who has been affected.

Many people are putting themselves in harm’s way by engaging in risky behaviors. For example:

  • 42% of Americans do not regularly check their credit reports.
  • 36% conduct banking and other sensitive business on unsecured WiFi networks that do not require a password.
  • 28% say their online account passwords are all or mostly the same. 18-25 year-olds are the worst offenders: about half of them use the same password all or most of the time.


 One victim’s story

Victims may pay an even higher price.

It took Betz-Hamilton, who discovered in 2001 her identity had been used to open fraudulent credit card accounts, 8 years to get all of the negative marks removed from her credit reports. Those bad loans and collections notices drove her credit score down to 380. (FICO scores range from 300 to 850.)

“The first thing I did was call my mom,” Betz-Hamilton, then a college sophomore, says. “I was crying. I told her I’d never own a home. I’d never own a car.”

In fact, Betz-Hamilton did eventually purchase a car, but had to settle for an annual percentage rate of 18.22% on her auto loan. Her first credit card carried an APR of 29.95%.

In 2013, Betz-Hamilton finally learned who had stolen her identity: her mother.

Shortly after Pamela Betz’s death, Betz-Hamilton’s father discovered hidden among his wife’s possessions statements for fraudulent accounts. Not only had the woman stolen her daughter’s identity, she stole that of Betz-Hamilton’s father and grandfather, as well.

“Right after Mom passed away, I think Dad and I were going through the standard stages of grief,” she says. “After discovering this, the grief stopped and it hasn’t ever started again.”
“My credit score was so bad, my identity couldn’t be used anymore.”

In all, Pamela Betz took out 4 credit cards in her daughter’s name beginning as early as 1993, when Betz-Hamilton was 13 years old. By the time Betz-Hamilton caught the fraud, her credit report contained 10 pages of accounts and debts sent to collection.

It took Betz-Hamilton, who discovered in 2001 her identity had been used to open fraudulent credit card accounts, 8 years to get all of the negative marks removed from her credit reports

Her mother stopped the fraud only after she couldn’t open any more accounts.

“My credit score was so bad, my identity couldn’t be used anymore,” she says.

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A widespread problem

“About two in five Americans have either been an identity theft victim or know someone who has,” said analyst Mike Cetera. “This is a widespread problem and many people aren’t doing enough to protect themselves.”

The recently announced Yahoo hack, which included 500 million accounts, is the latest major data breach to affect consumers. Other prominent examples from the past few years include Target and Home Depot.

At, consumers can stay on top of their credit with free monthly reports and scores. Identity theft protection is available for a nominal fee.

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. PSRAI obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (500, including 316 without a landline phone) in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from September 15-18, 2016. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.




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