How much is the public willing to pay to be protected from identity theft?

Nicole Leeper Piquero, Mark A. Cohen, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Identity theft has become one of the most ubiquitous crimes in the USA with estimates of the number of households being victimized annually ranging between 5% and 25%, resulting in direct losses totaling hundreds of billions of dollars over the past few years. Government efforts to combat identity theft have included legislation criminalizing and increasing penalties as well as regulatory efforts designed to protect individual identifying information held by financial and other business organizations. At the same time, individuals are taking their own preventive actions and purchasing private protection such as credit monitoring and identity theft insurance services. We use data from a large sample of residents from four states (Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington) in order to assess the public's willingness to pay (WTP) for a government program designed to reduce identify theft under two separate conditions, one promising a 25% reduction in identity theft and the other promising a 75% reduction in identity theft. Results indicate that: (1) between 40% and 66% of the public is willing to pay an additional tax for identity theft prevention, more so when the promise of a reduction is highest (75% compared to 25%) with an average WTP of $87, and (2) WTP is highest among individuals who carry many credit cards, who subscribe to an identity theft protection service, and who take active steps in preventing fraud by shredding bills and paying with cash, but is lowest among individuals who believe that taxes are too high. Converted into a "per crime" cost and combined with the portion of identity theft costs that are borne directly by business, we estimate the average cost per identity theft to range from approximately $2,800 to $5,100.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-459
Number of pages23
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Financial crime
  • Identity theft
  • White-collar crime
  • Willingness to pay

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