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AARP Bulletin Survey on Identity Theft: Executive Summary

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A nationwide survey commissioned by the AARP Bulletin asked adults age 18 and older what behaviors they engage in that may increase or decrease their risk of being victims of identity theft. This executive summary reports that most adults are concerned about being a victim of identity theft and at least half of them engage in behaviors that reduce their risk of being victimized. Nevertheless, the findings also show there are additional steps many adults can take to further reduce their risk.

Survey findings include:

  • Most adults (76%) are concerned about being the victim of identity theft. In fact, nearly four in ten (38%) are very concerned about it.
  • At least half of adults engage in several behaviors that decrease their risk of being a victim of identity theft. Just over half (52%) of adults do not carry their insurance card and/or Medicare card in their wallet with an ID number that is their or their spouse's Social Security number. Even more do not carry their Social Security card in their wallet (61%). And over three-quarters (77%) typically shred their credit card receipts, unsolicited credit applications, bank checks, bank statements or other financial statements before discarding them.
  • Fewer adults have taken steps that involve contacting others to decrease their risk of being a victim of identity theft. While over half (59%) currently have their name on the telemarketing Do-Not-Call list, within the last two years only 48% have ordered and reviewed a copy of their credit report. Even fewer (29%) have told at least one of the three major credit bureaus that they do not want to receive unsolicited financial offers in the mail within the last two years.
  • One in ten adults (10%) say they have been the victim of ID theft within the last two years. In most cases, someone gained access to their existing accounts and used them illegally (80%) rather than someone using their personal information to open new accounts (20%).

This study was conducted for AARP via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR), an independent research company. Interviews were conducted form July 23 to July 27, 2008, among a nationally representative sample of 1,007 respondents age 18 and older. For additional information, contact the report's author, Colette Thayer, Ph.D., at 202-434-6294. (5 pages)

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