At the end of every year, the Identity Theft Resource Center reviews the events in the identity theft world from the previous year and makes predictions on what the future holds for the issue. This year, we’ve changed the format of these predictions to make some bold assertions. 

While we don’t believe that all of these will come true right away, we want to challenge the status quo and get people thinking about what could and should be in 2014. 

Changing How Identity is Defined 

The definition of “identity” will evolve.

Historically, we think of our identity as our personal identifying information (PII) and other tokens that we use for authentication. Our Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license number and other pieces of information have been the cornerstone of what we believe makes up our “identity.” However, we believe that in 2014 the definition of identity will be expanded. It must begin to encompass the other factors that are used to both identify AND authenticate an individual. 

“Identity” will become a three-legged stool with PII as only one of the legs. Behavior and biometrics will also become part of an individual's total identity. Behavioral metrics have long been used for both fraud analytics and marketing purposes. We will finally realize that this also constitutes our identity. Biometrics will continue to slowly make it into the mainstream. With the release of their use on the iOS platform on iPhones, others will follow. Will consumers embrace them or shun them? We believe it will vary by generation -- that Millennials will wholly embrace them as they become available, while Generations X and Y will slowly adopt the less-intrusive forms (such as airport screening because of the convenience) and the boomers will resoundingly state: ‘You can pry my biometrics from my cold dead fingers.” 

Your Medical Identity: At Risk 

Medical identity theft incidents will surpass all other types of identity theft except for existing credit card misuse. 

This is a bold prediction, but the reality is that the thieves take the path of least resistance. And in no other area are we less equipped to combat the issue. With no central mechanism in place for remediation of medical identity theft, the ease in which thieves can victimize the same person, over and over, is increased. 

Once medical identity theives find a useful identity, they can keep using it for medical treatment as there is no place for consumers to place a single “alert” on their information that will stop further use. Additionally, it is still a widely unknown issue within the general consumer population, and many will have their medical identity used fraudulently without knowing it has even occurred

Statistics Won’t Tell the Whole Story 

Crime rate statistics will continue to give a false sense of security. 

The ITRC pointed out earlier this year that the way we measure property crimes rates is antiquated and in need of revision. The wheels of change turn slowly in this area, and we fully believe that the crime rate statistics will again be released in the beginning of the year and they will indicate that property crime rates have either decreased or stayed relatively flat. The report that is typically referenced as the primary indicator excludes identity theft as a metric. In fact, it excludes all fraud activity, thus we will continue to believe that crime is on the decline, when the opposite is true. 

Mobile Wallets Gone Global? Not So Fast Mobile wallets will be adopted by some, but it will be a long, long time before they become the norm and gain overwhelming popularity -- if they ever do. We believe that while many folks don’t mind using their Starbucks app to pay for coffee, or storing a credit card on a specific app for payments, it will be a hard sell to get them to put ALL of their financial information in their mobile device. This is supported by studies and surveys that show a distinct lack of consumer enthusiasm for overall adoption. In a survey conducted by Consult Hyperion in September of last year, 64% of the respondents stated they would not use a mobile wallet system. Smaller percentages said they would use a mobile wallet payment system administered by their bank, or Google (20% and 10%, respectively.) Of course, if industry provides the proper incentives for consumers (i.e. gives them discounts and free stuff) it could reach a tipping point for younger consumers. There may be more traction in 2015, we’ll have to wait and see. 

Accessibility of Fee-Based Financial Tools 

Low- and moderate-income individuals will find themselves further disenfranchised as the financial system continues to grow in complexity.

As more fee-based products and services enter the market (and we believe there are useful and generally legitimate services to those who can afford them) to assist individuals in this very confusing credit/loan/financial services climate, there will be no impetus to simplify the overall process for the common consumer. Individuals who cannot afford to pay for these tools, and who cannot be monetized, will be of little consequence to many in the industry. While some of the “white hat” industry leaders will do what they can to not leave these consumers in the dust, they will be less visible.

It’s the Law (or Should Be) 

Federal Data Breach Notification Laws will finally be enacted. This may be more of us wishing on a star than a reality, but it is so vitally important that we take positive steps in this direction that we just have to believe significant efforts will be made, and it will finally come to pass.

Making Extra-Certain You’re You 

More industries will adopt dual (and multi-) factor authentication in an effort to combat identity theft. At first seen as an inconvenience, the financial services sector has now convinced (most) of its customers that this practice is GOOD for them -- and they want it. Many other industries will continue to follow suit. 

Security vs. Convenience 

Privacy/security versus convenience will continue to be hotly debated, but privacy will make huge progress, thanks to the negative attention generated by recent data breach incidents and governmental access to personal information. Consumers will finally start engaging in the dialogue and may begin to wonder if all that convenience is really worth it. The Top Complaint Identity theft will be the No. 1 complaint collected by the FTC consumer Sentinel report for the 14th year in a row. Did we hit the bull's-eye? Did we miss the mark completely? Only time will tell, but we welcome your thoughts in the comments below. This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its affiliates.

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