Thursday, June 18, 2009

Higher credit scores more apt to see ID theft

COSTA MESA, Calif. (6/18/09)--Consumers having a high credit score are more likely to become victims of identity theft, because fraudsters using their identities find it easier to get credit, according to a new study from Experian.

There is a "significant connection" between high credit scores and becoming a victim of identity thieves, with the occurrence rate of identity fraud rising dramatically as credit scores increase, said the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based credit bureau's fraud and identity solutions group, which conducted the study.

The findings "should herald a warning for consumers and businesses alike," said Hiq Lee, senior vice president and general manager of Experian's fraud and identity solutions group. "Identity fraud can damage an individual's finances as well as a company's bottom line and reputation with consumers" (LoneStar Leaguer June 17 and Credit Card News June 9).

Experian has no data that suggest thieves specifically target high scorers.

Instead, the credit bureau explained that consumers with high credit scores tend to get approved for accounts on a more regular basis. Then, when fraudsters use their identification, they too are more apt to be approved for credit because of their victims' scores. The higher score means easier credit for the fraudsters; lower credit scores mean the fraudster's application is more likely to be rejected.

The top 20% of borrowers--who had ratings of 815 and above on the VantageScore 501-990 scale--were victims of 48% of all self-reported identity theft cases.

Consumers in the average-to-very good credit ratings--762 to 814--were victims in an additional 13% of fraud cases. Those with lower scores accounted for less than half the fraud cases, while those in the lowest 20% made up 4% of fraud cases.

The credit bureau examined about 800,000 fraud cases reported in 2007 and 2008. It parsed the data by victims' VantageScores. VantageScore is an Experian rating system. The more popular FICO scores were not surveyed. Data was provided by bank card issuers, retail card issuers, retail banks, mobile phone providers and utility companies.

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