Although 2014 was the year of the data breach, losses weren't as bad as consumers might expect. But that's not a good thing.
The number of data breaches hit a record high last year with 783 recorded, according to a January report from the Identity Theft Resource Center. Just a few of the big-name victims: JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, eBay, the U.S. Postal Service. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission announced that identity theft was its most-complained-about category in 2014, accounting for 13 percent of complaints.
Despite that high total, both the number of victims and fraud losses declined from 2013, according to Javelin Strategy & Research's 2015 Identity Fraud Study, released Tuesday. Thieves stole $16 billion from 12.7 million U.S. consumers last year, they said, down 11 percent from the previous year's $18 billion. The number of victims fell 3 percent, from last year's 13.1 million.
"It's actually not an encouraging story whatsoever," said Al Pascual, director of fraud and security for Javlin. Last year saw an "extraordinary response" from regulators, businesses, financial institutions and consumers to quickly stem breach losses, he said—including swiftly replacing impacted cards, installing monitoring systems to catch fraud quickly and adding account alerts to notify consumers of suspicious activity.