Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Identity Fraud Cost Americans $43 Billion in 2023

Victims are losing more money to these crimes, a new AARP-backed report finds

spinner image a picture of Ben Franklin on the 100 dollar bill with pixelated sunglasses over his face
Photo Collage: AARP;(Source: Getty Images)

American adults lost a total of $43 billion to identity fraud in 2023, according to a new report cosponsored by AARP.

That includes $23 billion lost to traditional identity fraud, which affected about the same number of people—15 million—as in 2022 (when the number was 15.4 million). But total losses grew by 13 percent last year, according to the report, “Resolving the Shattered Identity Crisis,” produced by Javelin Strategy & Research. 

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Scams orchestrated by criminals resulted in just over $20 billion in fraud losses to victims.

The increased per capita losses suggest that criminals are “aiming for larger payouts once unauthorized access to a consumer’s new or existing account has been achieved,” the report surmises. And those losses — determined through an online survey of 5,000 Americans 18 and older — are likely just a fraction of the true cost of identity fraud, because these crimes are notoriously underreported.

“We know that there is always going to be a certain number of victims who don’t report it, and it has a lot to do with the stigma against fraud and scams,” says Suzanne Sando, Javelin’s senior analyst in fraud and security and the author of the report. “We need to have better support from the right entities so victims feel comfortable and safe coming forward.... There should be no shame or embarrassment with this.”

Traditional identity fraud occurs when someone obtains someone else’s personal information, such as a Social Security number, home address, date of birth or bank account data, and uses it for fraud or other illicit purposes. A criminal may use your information to access your bank account, for instance, use your credit card for purchases or pretend to be you in order to open up a new credit card or bank account.

The problems of account takeovers and new-account fraud, where criminals use a victim’s personal information to open fraudulent new accounts, are growing, Javelin reports. Account takeover fraud resulted in nearly $13 billion in losses in 2023 (up from $11 billion in 2022). New-account fraud reached $5.3 billion (compared with $3.9 billion in 2022). The Javelin report notes that consumers’ online presence on social media and other platforms “is putting them at increased risk of having multiple accounts taken over by a criminal.”

How identity fraud occurs

There are different ways that criminals can access your personal information. They include identity fraud scams, where criminals influence a consumer to expose sensitive data, often by misrepresenting themselves. They may do so through phishing attempts, where scammers send emails “fishing” for personally identifying information and/or including links containing malware that can infect your device and steal data. These commonly are in the form of impersonation scams, where you’ll receive calls, emails or texts spoofing a government agency, law enforcement, a delivery service or your bank, for example; the impostor will attempt to elicit your Social Security number, account number or other sensitive information they can use to perpetrate fraud.

spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.

The report warns that social media has become fertile ground for scammers as well.

And while older people are less likely to become scam victims, they lose more money to scams than their younger counterparts: an average of $803 for victims in their 70s compared to $460 for those in their 30s, based on reports to the Federal Trade Commission .

Shopping & Groceries

Coupons for Local Stores

Save on clothing, gifts, beauty and other everyday shopping needs

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >

There’s also more straightforward identity theft — unauthorized access to personal information — which can occur without a scam or identity fraud. It’s commonly carried out through large-scale data breaches of online platforms, where cybercriminals hack into company’s systems and steal sensitive consumer data. Sometimes they will encrypt the captured data and request a ransom for its unencryption and release.

The Identity Theft Resource Center found that the number of data compromises soared last year to 3,205, compared to 1,801 in 2022. They are most frequently due to cyberattacks like the one experienced by Change Healthcare earlier this year (where a ransomware attack threatened to compromise sensitive healthcare data of UnitedHealth Group patients), as well as AT&T’s recent announcement that 73 million current and former customers’ personal information (including Social Security numbers) had been discovered on the dark web. 

Identity theft can lead to identity fraud when criminals take that stolen information and put it to malicious use.  

Victims’ perspective

Experiencing identity fraud can be devastating, says James E. Lee, chief operating officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center. He notes that the organization has seen a dramatic increase in the percentage of fraud victims they speak with — some of whom have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars — who say they’ve contemplated suicide because of the crime. Twenty-five years ago, two or three percent said they’d considered it, according to Lee, but in 2023, 16 percent of identity fraud victims said they’d thought about ending their lives.

Victims have to go through what’s often an arduous process to secure their accounts. The Javelin survey found that resolving a case of identity fraud is now more difficult — or at least more time-consuming — than ever. Researchers found that consumers spent an average of 10 hours resolving identity fraud, up from just six hours in 2022.

“That’s a massive increase,” says Sando. “ I think it goes back to the fact that we have so many accounts. That certainly plays into this increase in resolution time.”​  

In addition to the losses victims experience directly from the identity theft, the report found it costs them an average of $202 out of pocket during the fraud resolution process. That includes “legal fees, postage or covering fraudulent debts not reimbursed by a financial institution or a merchant, etc.”

How to protect yourself from identity fraud

You can’t prevent a data breach at a big company that holds your information, notes Lee, “but what we can do is make that [stolen] information less useful.” 

Key steps:

Be more aware of what information you’re sharing and where you’re sharing it. Ask: How do you protect my personal information? Why do you need this information? “It’s an automatic reflex,” says Lee, referring to our instincts to provide our phone number or address when filling out forms, for instance. “Don’t be afraid to say no,” he adds.

Freeze your credit. This restricts access to your credit history and makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. (This story explains when and how to freeze your credit.)

Use different passwords for every account. “[Criminals] know that most people use the same password on all their accounts,” Lee notes. A password manager can help you keep track of them all.

 Use multifactor identification: “Make sure you’re not solely relying on passwords” for financial accounts, says Sando. Many financial institutions will allow you to also use facial recognition or a one-time passcode sent to your phone, as an extra layer of security.

Find support

​AARP Fraud Watch Network has a toll-free helpline (877-908-3360), where trained volunteers provide fraud victims and family members support and guidance on what to do next.

The VOA ReST (Resilience, Strength and Time) program, a collaboration between AARP and Volunteers of America, offers free online facilitated emotional support sessions for fraud victims. You can attend as many sessions as you’d like; just register in advance online.​

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.