Faced with the threat of identity theft, many Americans have adopted a policy of “not being a victim”.
And for some, it’s working.
According to a new survey by the online security company Trend Micro, the share of consumers who said they’ve had to pay back stolen money has doubled since 2014.
The data shows that in the US, fraudsters are targeting the most vulnerable Americans: people who have had their Social Security numbers compromised, lost wages, or lost job prospects.
It’s a trend that is catching the attention of the US Congress, who are working to pass a law to crack down on fraudsters.
But experts say that, while there are some steps that could be taken to improve the security of Americans’ financial information, there’s also a need to be more proactive.
For many, fraudster tactics are often hidden and unnoticeable, said Matthew Garb, the CEO of Trend Micro.
So when an American is hit with a fraudulent account, he or she might not even realise that someone is attempting to scam them.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of the same things over and over again,” he said.
“It’s been going on for decades and they haven’t even caught on.
We need to make sure we’re taking these threats seriously.”
The US is home to one of the world’s largest economies and has the third-highest percentage of its population that is in poverty.
It also has a huge debt pile of $16.5tn, the most in the world.
The US spends more on public services than any other developed nation.
That includes Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other entitlements, which are funded through taxes on the rich.
The report by Trend Micro surveyed 1,000 US consumers who had used their Social and Medical Insurance cards, credit cards, debit cards, or prepaid debit cards between October 2014 and December 2016.
It found that the number of consumers reporting they’ve been victims of identity fraud rose from 3% to 6% from 2013 to 2016.
The average amount they were charged increased from $20.25 to $35.88.
But, when it comes to fraud, the US is one of only two countries in the OECD that do not allow victims to file a police report.
It does allow victims who have lost money to take their case to court.
“There’s a lot we don’t know,” said Garb.
“The whole fraud ecosystem is so opaque and we have to trust in our government to do something about it.”
“This is one way that the US government can be a leader in addressing this problem,” he added.
The threat of fraud is only part of the problem.
Fraudsters can also get away with things that could damage your credit rating or hurt your chances of getting a job.
And when it’s a matter of life and death, many people may not even know they’ve lost a job to a fraudster.
“If you’re working with a credit card company and you lose money to someone, and they’ve stolen your name and credit card information, that’s a big issue,” said Chris Kelleher, a senior fellow at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm in Washington DC.
“This could be a life or death issue.
So if you’ve got the option of paying back the money, you’re putting your life on the line.”
What you need to know about fraud and identity theft:What’s the big takeaway?
It’s an ongoing debate in the country, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state and local governments looking into whether or not to create laws to crack back on fraud.
And some believe that such laws may be in the offing.
The Federal Reserve has already suggested it may be time to move away from a system that encourages consumers to trust banks to protect their financial information.
In December, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released a report saying that the current system has left the banking system vulnerable to hackers.
And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has said that it could consider expanding its fraud prevention efforts.
It also suggests that Congress and the President of the United States could consider ways to increase the financial protections for consumers.
“What we’re seeing across the country right now is the threat to the financial security of consumers is getting worse,” said Tom Daddario, the president of the National Consumer Law Center.
“When people have been targeted for identity theft and there is no recourse, then the idea of taking steps to protect your identity is going to be less likely to be effective.”