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A recent report by Javelin Strategy & Research found that incidents of identity fraud increased in 2012 for the second consecutive year.  According to the report, 15.8 million U.S. consumers had their payment card data compromised in a data breach last year and 4.4 million of those affected suffered fraud on existing credit or debit cards.

Most alarmingly, this year, almost 1 in 4 consumers that received a data breach letter became a victim of identity fraud, which is the highest rate since 2010.  The study found consumers who had their Social Security number compromised in a data breach were 5 times more likely to be a fraud victim than an average consumer.

In addition, the number of identity fraud incidents increased by one million more consumers over the past year, and the dollar amount stolen increased to $21 billion, a three-year high. This equates to 1 incident of identity fraud every 3 seconds.

For consumers, this report should be an eye-opener.  If you receive a breach notification letter, you must take it seriously and take the actions necessary to protect your identity, whether by enrolling in credit monitoring, placing a fraud alert and/or reviewing your credit reports.

For businesses, this report confirms the need to have an incident response team and plan in place so that you can take immediate action when a privacy incident occurs.  The quicker you can alert your affected population of the breach (whether it’s customers, patients or employees), the better chances those individuals have of not becoming victims of identity theft.  Plus, your organization will have a better shot at not becoming a named defendant on a class action lawsuit!