NZ: how big is identity theft?
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.