NZ: how big is identity theft?

February 8, 2008 at 11:39 pm 5 comments

Just how big a problem identity theft is in New Zealand has been a barren debate so far. In the absence of official statistics and research, the debate has largely been opinions vs. extrapolation of overseas data.

That makes the report “The Experience of E-Crime, Findings from the New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey 2006” for the Ministry of Justice very welcome even though it seems to only cover a sub-set of the wider identity theft and identity fraud problems.

A nationally representative random sample of 5,400 people was surveyed between February and June 2006. Chapter 4 of the report presents the findings on identity theft in two categories:

– Of card users, 2.3% said that somebody had used a credit, bank or debit card or card number, without permission, to steal from them.

1.1% reported that someone had misused personal information about them to obtain new credit cards or loans, run up debts, open other accounts, or otherwise commit theft, fraud, or some other crime.

– Overall, 2.8% reported that one or the other of the two forms of identity theft they were asked about had occurred once or more and 0.4% of respondents reported both forms of identity theft.

Now, 2.8% extrapolated to the NZ population equates to about 93,000 people aged 15 or more that have suffered from credit card fraud or identity fraud during the January 2005 to June 2006 period.

It is interesting to see how this compares with results from other countries.

However, a great deal of caution is required due to the differences in terminology and the varying definitions of identity theft / identity fraud. In fact, the NZ Police website has a good, clear differentiation between identity theft and identity fraud.

Various reports from the US put the number of US adult victims of identity fraud in the region of 8.5-9 million in 2007. This amounts to about 3.2% of the US population aged 15 or more which isn’t drastically different than the 2.8%.

The 2006 KPMG Fraud Survey however tells a different story from the perspective of NZ and Australia businesses:

– 61% of respondents believed fraud was a major problem for business.

– Amongst 2,146 of Australia and New Zealand’s largest organisations across the public and private sectors, respondents reported 546 cases of identity fraud.

So, if about 3% of the country’s adult population is a victim of identity theft each year and 3 out of 5 large organisations believe it is a major problem, is it a problem that is a priority to address? I believe it is.


Entry filed under: fraud, identity, NZ, personal_info, security, USA.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • […] NZ: how big is identity theft? 1.1% reported that someone had misused personal information about them to obtain new credit cards or loans, run up debts, open other accounts, or otherwise commit theft, fraud, or some other crime. – Overall, 2.8% reported that one or … […]

  • […] Identity GANG » identifying everything NZ: how big is identity theft? « Identity and Privacy Blog Identity Theft and Fraud » Michael Cochrane LL.B. The Main Causes of Identity Theft and Some […]

  • 3. Victoria  |  March 20, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I had my wallet stolen last night containing drivers licence, credit card etc. and have spent this morning trying to establish what my exposure risk is to identity fraud – no one seems to be speaking about it, or seeing it as a serious risk. It’s easy enough to cancel my credit card and mobile phone, but what happens to all my ID documents? I have got police reports and cancelled my licence but have no guarantees that this will protect me if someone tries to use my ID. Any advice much appreciated. I’m enraged that someone has decided to mess up my life in this way and despair of human nature.

  • 4. Vikram  |  March 20, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Victoria,

    That sounds terrible- I hope you can sort out things.

    The problem with ID docs like a drivers licence is the inability to revoke it’s use as an ID. That’s an advantage of many online systems.

    I’m afraid I have little advice to offer. It seems sensible to keep an eye on your credit report (for example, you can get a free one from Veda Advantage which is the big NZ one).

  • 5. PJ  |  July 2, 2008 at 4:32 am

    It’s a global problem. Countries all over the world are now recognizing just how much damage Malicious Software resulting in id theft can be to their economies. Some are starting to come together in order to focus on counteracting malware attacks. The question is will the good guys be able to stay one step ahead of the infiltrators?


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