Written By: Security.org Team | Published: June 7, 2021

In 2020 and throughout 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic caused an increase in COVID-related scams, including identity theft. On March 29, 2021, the FTC received a record 3,038 COVID-related identity theft reports, the most in a single day. To see how ID theft has changed throughout the year, we surveyed more than 700 U.S. adults to find out their experiences with stolen identities and identity monitoring services. Our key findings include:

  • From 2019 to 2020, 67 percent more U.S. adults reported that they had had their identities stolen in the past year; in 2020, the number of identity theft victims totalled an estimated 20.7 million people.
  • In 2022, the identity monitoring industry is poised to increase significantly by an estimated $4.1 billion in revenue, as 20 percent of Americans say they expect to purchase identity theft protection in the next year. These numbers are based on an average annual cost of $100 and a population of 207 million U.S. adults.
  • 90 percent of identity theft protection customers rated their satisfaction at three out of five stars or above; 26 percent were the most satisfied at five stars. 75 percent of customers are most satisfied with the credit card activity and fraud monitoring, while 15 percent are least satisfied with phone takeover monitoring.
  • The most common reason respondents selected for not planning on buying or subscribing to an identity theft protection service was that they didn’t need it at 36 percent, followed by it’s too expensive at 31 percent.
  • 93 percent of identity theft victims reported it, most commonly to a private company or companies. 28 percent reported it to law enforcement only, while 21 reported it to both. Women are five percent more likely to report identity theft than men.

Table Of Contents

  1. Victims Of Identity Theft
  2. Interest In Monitoring And Identity Protection Services
  3. Consumer Perceptions Of Identity Monitoring Services
  4. Methodology

Victims Of Identity Theft

67 percent more people had their identities stolen in 2020 compared to 2019, according to our surveys from 2021 and 2020. Currently, 32 percent of U.S. adults have had their identities stolen at some point in their lives.

Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? Responses- 2021 Responses- 2020
Yes, in the last year 10% 6%
Yes, more than one year ago 22% 16%
No 68% 77%

When compared to child identity theft, adult identity theft is 129 percent more likely. Only 14 percent of U.S. adults say they have a child or children who have been victims of identity theft, compared to 32 percent of the adults themselves.

Last year, we asked U.S. adults not only about identity fraud and theft but also about credit card fraud, finding that men were 23 percent more likely to have their identities stolen but two percent less likely to be victims of credit card fraud.

However, in 2018, research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showed that men and women were equally likely to be identity theft victims at nine percent each. The BJS also found that the following groups were disproportionately represented among identity theft victims:

  • People ages 35 to 49, making up 29 percent of victims compared to 24 percent of the population of U.S. adults
  • People with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more, making up 51 percent of victims but only 12 percent of adults

Nearly half of victims, 46 percent, lost $1,000 or more, while 39 percent lost less than $1,000. The next year, the average financial loss from identity theft was $300, and 70 percent of victims experienced losses. Moreover, from January 1, 2020 to May 20, 2021, the median loss from COVID-related identity thefts was $350, according to FTC data.

More than a third of identity theft victims had an identity theft monitoring tool at the time. Even the best identity theft protection services can’t guarantee the prevention of identity theft, which is why most subscriptions include identity theft restoration services as well as insurance. These services survey credit reports, among other areas, for users’ personal information, which could have been revealed in data breaches of financial institutions, for example.

Did you have an identity theft monitoring tool at the time? Responses
Yes 33%
No 67%

In total, 93 percent of identity theft victims reported it, most commonly to a private company or companies as opposed to law enforcement.

Did you report it? Responses
Yes – to a private company/ companies 44%
Yes – to law enforcement 28%
Yes – to both law enforcement and private company/ companies 21%
No 7%

According to our research, women are five percent more likely than men to report identity theft; 96 percent of women reported identity theft compared to 91 percent of men.

Did you report it? Yes, to law enforcement Yes, to a private company/ companies Yes – to both law enforcement and private company/ companies No
Male 29% 46% 16% 9%
Female 28% 42% 25% 5%

In contrast, we found no significant differences comparing rates of reporting identity theft to household incomes or ages.

FYI: Are you interested to see how well the top brands did when we tested them? If so, see our LifeLock review, our Identity Guard review, and even our IdentityForce review for more details.

Interest In Monitoring And Identity Protection Services

Nearly half of U.S. adults already subscribe to an identity theft protection service, 93 million customers overall.

Do you subscribe to an identity theft protection service? Responses
Yes 45%
No 55%

Based on an average annual cost of $100, we estimate that revenue generated by the identity theft protection industry is $9.3 billion. But as 20 percent of U.S. adults claim they plan to buy identity theft protection in the next year, we expect that number to increase significantly by $4.1 billion to $13.4 billion by May of 2022. Our estimates are based on the number of adults in the U.S., over 207 million.

Are you considering buying/subscribing to an identity theft monitoring service? Responses- 2021 Responses- 2020
Yes – within the next year 20% 14%
Yes – more than a year from now 14% 15%
No 66% 71%

Compared to 2020, in 2021, 43 percent more U.S. adults are interested in buying identity theft protection within the next 12 months. Prior victimhood correlated directly with already having an identity theft protection subscription. Victims were twice as likely as non-victims to have already purchased identity theft protection services.

Do you subscribe to an identity theft protection service? Yes No
Yes, I've had my identity stolen in the past year. 79% 21%
Yes, I've had my identity stolen more than a year ago. 61% 39%
Yes, I've had my identity stolen before. 66% 34%
No, I've never had my identity stolen. 34% 66%

For those not interested in buying identity monitoring, the most common reason was that they didn’t think they needed it at 36 percent. However, given that over a third of Americans have experienced identity theft at some point in their lives, perhaps those people aren’t aware of its prevalence in the U.S.

Why not? Select all that apply. Responses
I don't believe I need it 36%
Too expensive 31%
I don't know enough about them 25%
I don't believe they are effective 22%
Not sure how to shop for one 10%
None of the above 9%
I haven't found the right solution yet 7%
Other (please specify) 5%

Consumer Perceptions Of Identity Monitoring Services

Last year, 64 percent of respondents said that identity theft products helped them know when a theft happens. Concurrently, those with identity theft protection who had had their identities stolen were 14 percent more likely to have recovered their entire financial losses. However, there was no difference in recovering credit card-related losses based on identity theft protection service ownership.

In 2021, 90 percent of identity theft protection customers said they were satisfied with the product, rating it three stars or more.

How satisfied are you overall with your identity theft protection service? Responses
Least satisfied (1 star) 4%
2 Stars 4%
3 Stars 26%
4 Stars 38%
Most satisfied (5 stars) 26%

The specific service with the most customer satisfaction was credit card activity and fraud monitoring; 75 percent of customers were satisfied to very satisfied. However, 15 percent of customers were dissatisfied to very dissatisfied with phone takeover monitoring.

How satisfied are you with the following attributes of your identity theft protection service?
Very dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied Satisfied Very satisfied
Social security/identity monitoring 4% 5% 19% 42% 26%
Credit monitoring 3% 4% 16% 42% 31%
Alerts and Notifications 3% 4% 22% 43% 25%
Address monitoring and/or home title monitoring 3% 6% 25% 34% 20%
Social media monitoring 4% 8% 30% 28% 16%
Dark web monitoring 4% 10% 23% 34% 21%
Phone takeover monitoring 4% 11% 24% 28% 14%
Credit card activity and fraud monitoring 4% 3% 16% 43% 32%
Safe browsing tools 3% 7% 23% 35% 22%
Mobile app 4% 7% 21% 36% 19%
Identity theft insurance/ stolen fund reimbursements 4% 6% 21% 37% 23%
Crime alerts in your name 4% 8% 27% 29% 22%

Of the COVID-related identity thefts, only three percent involved credit cards, according to the FTC. However, it did not collect data on phone COVID identity thefts, so we can’t explain this difference in satisfaction levels based on the frequency of said thefts.

Types of COVID-related identity theft Number of reports from 1/1/20- 5/20/21 Percent of the total number of reports (499,953)
Online shopping 50315 10%
Vacation and travel 39960 8%
Credit bureaus 14839 3%
Data products, plans, and centers 13827 3%
Credit cards 13057 3%

Overall, 58 percent of identity theft customers agreed or strongly agreed that identity theft monitoring services are effective and helpful.

Please indicate if you agree or disagree with the following statement: Identity theft monitoring services are effective and helpful. Responses
Strongly agree 16%
Agree 42%
Neither agree nor disagree 36%
Disagree 5%
Strongly disagree 1%

Explore the services available in our identity theft protection comparison.

Methodology

We surveyed 712 U.S. adults on May 18, 2021, comparing the results with a survey of over 500 adults from May 17 to May 21, 2020. We supplemented our original research with data from the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.