Cost of US ID theft falling

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NEW YORK – A new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report says US losses from ID fraud came to $15.6 billion in 2005, down from $47.6 billion in the 2003 report.

The study also says 8.3 million Americans, or 3.6% of US adults, were victims of identity fraud in 2005 – down from 4.6% in the previous study.

The survey was carried out between March and June 2006 and was based on 4,917 telephone interviews, although changes in methodology from the previous study made the FTC reluctant to embrace the significance of its own figures.

Some 56% of participants had no idea how fraudsters got hold of their personal details. Only 1% blamed computer hacking and another 1% phishing scams.

Results said a third of ID theft victims had suffered abuse of their credit card, with most of the remainder occurring on non-credit card accounts.

The FTC says most victims did not report any cost of ID theft, although 10% said it cost them at least $1,200.

The cost in time and money were higher for thefts where the fraudsters set up new accounts – with the average theft rising from under $500 to $1,350 where new accounts had been created.

The FTC highlighted the cost in time caused by ID theft – four hours on average and 130 hours for 5% of people.

Credit problems, inability to access accounts and harassment by bailiffs were reported by 37% of respondents.

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