The number of identity theft victims rose by 8 percent to 16.7 million U.S. consumers in 2017, according to a new report.

Javelin Strategy & Research’s “2018 Identity Fraud Study” revealed that identity thieves preyed upon 1.3 million more victims in 2017 than they did the previous year by adapting to changing technologies and regulations. This flexibility enabled bad actors to steal a total of $16.8 billion from unsuspecting U.S. consumers.

Emerging Identity Theft Trends

The study, which was sponsored by Identity Guard, synthesized the responses of 5,000 U.S. adults who participated in a survey during the first half of November 2017. It found that the surge in identity fraud, which affected 6.64 percent of U.S. consumers last year, is largely attributed to two key trends.

First, the number of cases of account takeover tripled over the past year and reached a four-year high, with losses climbing to $5.1 billion. Victims spent an average of 15 hours and $290 to resolve the fraud cases affecting them.

Second, malefactors responded to the rise of EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) chip card technologies by committing card-not-present (CNP) fraud. In fact, CNP fraud was 81 percent more prevalent in 2017 than point-of-sale fraud.

A ‘Runaway Year’ for Identity Fraud

Identity fraud is unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Al Pascual, senior vice president, research director, and head of fraud and security at Javelin, called 2017 “a runaway year for fraudsters” in a press release.

“Fraudsters are growing more sophisticated in response to industry’s efforts to implement better security,” he said, adding that consumers can take advantage of a variety of digital solutions to stay abreast of activity related to their accounts.

Customers should enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on all web accounts that offer it. They should also sign up for account activity alerts, consider placing a security freeze on their credit reports with each of the main credit bureaus, and secure devices by avoiding public Wi-Fi, using a virtual private network (VPN) and encrypting data.

Organizations also have a responsibility to combat identity fraud. Financial associations in particular need to prevent bad actors from creating new accounts with stolen identities. As new fraud patterns emerge and evolve, it’s critical for security leaders to follow basic best practices and adapt their systems to the shifting cybercriminal landscape.

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