New Survey: Half of Americans Expect Identity Theft to Cause Them a Financial Loss in the Next Year; Majority of Investment Frauds go Unreported

AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission Provides Tips
to Prevent Americans from Being Victimized by Financial Schemes

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Tax time is busy season for CPAs – but it’s also busy season for
criminals looking to steal identities and fraudulently obtain refund
checks. Americans are highly aware of the threat of losing money to
scammers, with half of U.S. adults (50 percent) saying that it is at
least somewhat likely they will suffer some financial loss in the next
year due to identity theft–and one in 10 (10 percent) say it is very or
extremely likely. That’s according to a new telephone survey of 1,005
U.S. adults conducted in March by Harris Poll on behalf of the American
Institute of CPAs
for Financial Capability Month. The survey also
found that in the past year more than one in five Americans (21 percent)
have suffered identity theft or attempted identity theft.


The good news is that the vast majority of Americans (93 percent)
affected by identity theft took action to fix it. Approximately three in
four (72 percent) contacted their credit or debit card company to set up
additional protections and half (50 percent) used cash or checks more
often. Other steps taken were eliminating or decreasing usage of online
financial transactions (46 percent), putting a freeze on their credit
report (29 percent), and using alternative currencies like Bitcoin (10
percent).

“There are basic steps people can take right now, before identity theft
causes a financial nightmare. Securing your personal information and
only providing your social security number when it is absolutely
necessary are easy steps to take,” said Gregory Anton, CPA, CGMA, chair
of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “In addition,
there are a variety of different investment frauds schemes that have the
potential to cause major financial harm. A basic rule for any investment
is that if it seems too good to be true – it probably is.”

Being proactive can help mitigate the threat of a financial loss
resulting from identity theft. Helping to prevent losses from investment
fraud requires a similar approach – and a healthy dose of skepticism.
Since investment fraud involves an active decision to put money at risk,
often times with friends or family, reporting it can seem like a
difficult decision.

In fact, six in 10 U.S. adults who were victims of investment fraud (59
percent) did not report it to the authorities. Among those who didn’t,
more than four in 10 (41 percent) did not report the fraud because they
blamed themselves, while one in four did not report it because they knew
the fraudster (27 percent) or they didn’t know who to contact (25
percent). Another one in five (18 percent) cited embarrassment as the
reason they did not report the investment fraud.

“Americans who are victimized by investment fraud or identity theft
should alert the proper authorities, regardless of the circumstances,”
added Anton. “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.”

The survey found that almost one in five (19 percent) Americans have
been victimized by investment fraud. The scams most often cited were
Ponzi or pyramid schemes (six percent), closely followed by a fraudulent
IRS tax return or refund scam, unrealistically high guaranteed
investment returns, collectibles, get rich quick seminars (four percent
each), and email requests for money (three percent).

The AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers the
following tips to prevent or mitigate the effects of identity theft and
investment fraud and information on who to contact if you are victimized.

IDENTITY THEFT

1. Check your credit report free annually, even for your children
2.
Get free identity theft protection from your credit or debit card company
3.
Check account balances daily with apps
4. Use solid passwords and
change them frequently
5. If you are a victim of identity theft,
report it immediately to the Federal
Trade Commission
, your local police department, and credit reporting
agencies

INVESTMENT FRAUD

1. Be careful if it sounds “too good to be true”
2. All aspects of
the transaction should be transparent; ask questions
3. The risk
vs. reward should be reasonable
4. Resist pressure to invest or act
quickly
5. Report fraud or suspicious activity to the Securities
and Exchange Commission
and Financial
Industry Regulatory Authority

For more information on the AICPA survey or to speak to a member of the
AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, contact Marc Eiger
at 212-596-6042, meiger@aicpa.org
or James Schiavone at 212-596-6119, jschiavone@aicpa.org.

About AICPA Financial Literacy Initiatives

360 Degrees of Financial literacy (www.360finlit.org)
is a national volunteer effort of the nation’s Certified Public
Accountants to help Americans understand their personal finances and
develop money management skills. The AICPA and Ad Council have developed
the Feed the Pig program (Feed
the Pig
), a national and localized PSA
campaign designed to improve financial literacy among Americans aged
25–34 by encouraging them to make savings a part of their daily lives.

Methodology

Harris Poll has conducted an annual survey for the AICPA since 2007.
This year’s poll was conducted by telephone within the United States
between March 18 and March 27, 2016, among 1,005 adults (517 men and 488
women aged 18 and over), including 499 interviews from the landline
sample and 506 interviews from the cell phone sample.

About the AICPA

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member
association representing the accounting profession, with more than
412,000 members in 144 countries, and a history of serving the public
interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice,
including business and industry, public practice, government, education
and consulting.

The AICPA sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing
standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state
and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA
Examination, and offers specialty credentials for CPAs who concentrate
on personal financial planning; forensic accounting; business valuation;
and information management and technology assurance. Through a joint
venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA),
it has established the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
designation which sets a new standard for global recognition of
management accounting.

The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, and
Ewing, NJ.

Media representatives are invited to visit the AICPA Press Center at aicpa.org/press.

Contacts

American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)
Marc Eiger,
212-596-6042

meiger@aicpa.org
or
James
Schiavone, 212-596-6119

jschiavone@aicpa.org