What is Identity Theft?

Know the risks

Identity theft happens when criminals get a hold of your sensitive personal information to take out loans, open fraudulent accounts, falsify tax returns, purchase properties, and use your good name to break the law.

a Graph of the increasing growth of data breaches between 2008 to 2017

1: How your information is taken

Hacking continues to rank highest among types of identity theft attacks. In 2019 there were over 1,300 breaches and over 163 million records exposed.1

While hacking makes up 91% of data attacks, not all threats to information happen online. Physical documents, institutional records, and lost wallets can also be used to expose sensitive information and commit identity theft. Criminals have many ways to access personal information, and some of them are completely out of your control.

…No matter how careful you are, your information can be stolen

a Graph of the increasing growth of data breaches between 2008 to 2017

- While hacking makes up 91% of data attacks, not all threats to information happen online.

Growth of Data Breaches, 2008-2017
Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Number of Breaches 656 498 662 421 471 614 783 780 1,091 1,579
Number of Records Exposed (Millions) 35.7 222.5 16.2 22.9 17.3 92 85.6 169.1 36.6 179
A graph of the 2018 Q1 breach analysis by data type

- 2019 Risk Based Security

2018 Q1 Breach Analysis by DataType Exposed
Name Email Address Social Security Number Address Password Miscellaneous Undisclosed Credit Card Numbers Financial Date of Birth Phone Number Medical
44.2% 27.8% 27.0% 25.9% 23.5% 21.0% 18.2% 17.2% 15.6% 15.0% 11.2% 11.1%

2: What information is stolen

Identity thieves are the new pickpockets, but what they steal
is more personal and damaging than cash or personal items.

Some of the most targeted pieces of information, such as full
names and Social Security numbers, don’t change often over the
course of a lifetime. When stolen and used by an identity thief,
these more permanent pieces of information can’t be easily
changed to resolve the problem.

Are you seeing the signs of identity theft?

3: What can happen with the information that has been stolen

Synthetic Identity Theft is the “fastest growing type of ID fraud,” representing 80-85% of all current identity fraud

Identity thieves can mesh personal data with fabricated information to build an entirely new synthetic identity which they can use in a variety of ways, such as taking out loans or committing financial fraud. Synthetic Identity Theft is currently the fastest growing type of identity fraud – targeting difficult to resolve information such as your SSN and birth date.

- 2017 Experian

Criminal Identity Theft can be hard to detect

When fraudsters use your identity to commit crimes there’s more at stake than just the financial impact. Fraudulent charges on your criminal record can affect your ability to get a job, apply for a driver’s license, and can even lead to victims needing to post bail. This kind of identity theft can remain undiscovered until fraudulent charges appear on a background check. This type of theft can take place when your ID is stolen or lost and can remain unnoticed by the victim until fraudulent charges appear a background check, or they face false legal charges.

Total losses due to Account Takeover Fraud reached $4 billion in 20182

Account takeover fraud involves criminals gaining access to bank and credit card accounts of individuals, as well as corporations and businesses. Access to the accounts allows thieves to change passwords, empty accounts, and open false credit cards leading to victims sometimes being hunted down by collection services.

Medical related identity theft went up 103% in 2018

Medical Identity Theft is when someone uses a fake identity to procure medical services, which can affect medical coverage and treatment. Falsely influenced medical records can lead to a doctor prescribing the wrong medication or a patient being unable to receive their medication, causing significant damage before being recognized. Prevention of medical identity theft requires consistent reviewing of medical statements and medical claims.

- 2019 Federal Trade Commission

33% of the Child Identity Theft victims knew the person who stole their information

- Stolba, 2018 Experian

Adults go to great lengths to protect their identity, but don’t always consider providing the same level of protection to their children. That’s why Complete ID offers additional Child Identity Monitoring3.

26% of all identity theft affects Americans who were 60 or older

Older Americans usually have assets that increase their risk of being a target of identity theft. They also generally lose more money when victimized. In recent years, a series of phone scams targeting seniors have become so widespread that the FTC has circulated special press releases to address the issue.

- 2019 Federal Trade Commission

Social media hacking and hoaxes can target those around you

Are your social media security settings in tip-top shape? What about all your friend’s, and their friend’s? It’s the nature of social media sites to be an information epicenter, and you don’t have to be breached directly to have your info exposed. The personal facts identity thieves pull from social media can be sold on the dark web, used to create a synthetic identity, or create an impostor social account imitating yours.

Identity theft can happen anytime, anywhere

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Beyond the financial impact


Unlike other types of theft, identity theft hurts more than just your bank account.

Identity theft can affect your life options and basic necessities. When your identity has been compromised it can lead to false criminal charges, bank account charges, and a lowered credit score. It can eventually result in job loss, reduced access to housing, and the inability to attain credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and/or mortgages.

The consequences can extend much deeper. Not only did 75.5% of victims feel severely distressed by their identity being violated, but 35% of respondents sought some form of professional help to deal with the emotional impact.4


How Complete ID Works

Key features at a costco member value

Identity Protection

There’s a lot of variety and complexity possible for every identity theft case. Simple protective measures, like annually checking credit reports, no longer cut it. It’s necessary to have a comprehensive and proactive approach to identity protection.


It’s important to know about your financial health, just like it’s important to know about your physical health. Your credit gets a regular checkup as part of your Complete ID membership.



Don’t get lost in the labyrinth of processes required to resolve ID theft. Our specialists know all the routes and pitfalls no matter the type of theft, so you can have years of expertise at your back when tackling your case.


*All plan pricing is subject to applicable sales tax. Service provided by Experian®.

1Identity Theft Resource Center, 2019 November Data Breach PackageExperian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

2Javelin Strategy & Research: Identity Fraud Study, 2019

3Child monitoring includes up to 5 children under the age of 18. One-time Parent/Legal Guardian verification is required to receive alert details for children.