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Half of Americans Think They'll Lose Money to Identity Theft in Next Year: AICPA Poll

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American are increasingly aware that they can fall prey to con artists after their money.

Fifty percent of adults in a new survey released Thursday by the American Institute of CPAs anticipated suffering some financial loss in the next year because of identity theft, and 10% said this was very or extremely likely to happen.

Twenty-one percent of respondents reported identity theft or an attempt during the past year.

Harris Poll conducted the annual telephone survey for the AICPA in late March among 517 men and 488 women 18 and older.

The survey found that 93% respondents hit by identity theft took action to fix it:

  • 72% contacted their credit or debit card company to set up more protections
  • 50% increased their use of cash or checks
  • 46% eliminated or decreased use of online financial transactions
  • 29% put a freeze on their credit report
  • 10% used alternative currencies, such as bitcoin

It is likely that the Internal Revenue Service’s annual campaign to alert taxpayers about tax scams, including ID theft, has helped raise Americans’ awareness of potential losses.

AICPA noted that being proactive can help mitigate the threat of a financial loss resulting from identity theft.

A similar approach, it said, combined with skepticism can prevent losses from investment fraud.

Nineteen percent of Americans in the survey said they had been victimized by investment fraud.

Six percent cited Ponzi or pyramid schemes, while 4% each said they had fallen victim to a fraudulent IRS tax return or refund scam, unrealistically high guaranteed investment returns and get-rich-quick seminars. Three percent said they had been gullible to email requests for money.

The poll found that an active decision to put assets at risk, often with family or friends, can make reporting suspected investment fraud a hard thing to do.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents who were victims of investment fraud said they did not report it to the authorities.

Among these non-reporters, 41% blamed themselves for their loss. Twenty-seven percent did not report the fraud because they knew the scammer, and 25% did know whom to contact.

Eighteen percent cited embarrassment as the reason they did not reach out to authorities.

“Americans who are victimized by investment fraud or identity theft should alert the proper authorities, regardless of the circumstances,” Gregory Anton, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, said in a statement.

“By reporting the crimes, they are increasing the chance that the scammers will be brought to justice and reducing the risk that they will target others in the future.”

— Check out Ex-NFL Player Willie Gault Slapped With Securities Fraud on ThinkAdvisor.


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