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Identity Theft Rose in 2008

Posted on 10 Feb 2009

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According to the fifth annual study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, identity theft is on the rise, increasing to a record 9.9 million victims in 2008, up from 22% in 2007. About one in 23 U.S. adults became victims.

Total loses increased after three straight years of decline, but the loss per victim fell by 12% to $4,849 from $5,488. The most positive trend is that individuals spent 31% less (an average of $496) to clean up the mess. More than half of victims didn't have to spend anything to clean up after a fraud.

In an interview with CNN, president of Javelin, James Van Dyke, said: "Identity fraud has been dropping until last year, boom, there was a turn-up. The only thing we can logically attribute that to is the economy. If people need to make money, and decide to do so illicitly, identity fraud is the logical opportunity."

Improper use of checkbooks and credit or debit cards after a wallet or pocketbook is lost or stolen remains the most common means of identity theft -- 43% of all incidents can be traced to this cause. About 25% of victims had their PINs compromised on ATM cards. Online fraud was the reason for 11% of cases.

So who's most likely to be a victim? People with incomes over $75,000 were more likely to be hit than those with lower earnings. By age, the highest fraud rate is among people between 35 and 44. Ethnically Hispanics were hit the most followed by African-Americans, Caucasians and Asians.

Avoiding Identity Theft

* Don't give out your Social Security number to anyone who calls you unless you do know the caller and were expecting the call.

* Don't give out any personal identifying information on social networking websites and in chat room discussions. Always be sure to verify the identity of the person asking for the information.

* Keep your sensitive documents secure. A safe deposit box at your bank is your best bet.

* Shred any documents you want to throw out that have your account numbers or other identifying information on them. Shredders today are pretty cheap and a lot cheaper than cleaning up an identity fraud mess.

* Choose hard to guess passwords and pin numbers. Most people use a part of their name or a pet's name. Be more creative. Also, change up your passwords and pin numbers so you don't use the same one with several accounts.