The Federal Trade Commission this week released a survey showing that 8.3 million American adults, or 3.7 percent of us, were victims of identity theft in 2005. Most of those cases involved misuse of existing credit card or other accounts, while 1.8 million found that new accounts were opened or other frauds were committed using their personal identifying information.
Not surprisingly, the survey found that thieves obtained more goods and services – and victims spent more time and money recovering – in cases where the thief opened new accounts rather than only hijacking existing accounts. In at least half of all incidents, thieves obtained goods or services worth $500 or less. In 10 percent of cases, however, thieves got at least $6,000 worth of goods or services. More than half of victims incurred no out-of-pocket expenses. But 10 percent paid $1,200 or more. The median time spent resolving problems by all victims was four hours, but some spent 130 hours or more trying to clear their names.
The good news? The study shows identity theft is dropping. Results are similar to a report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research.