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SURVEY FINDS OVER 13 MILLION ID THEFT VICTIMS IN THE U.S. SINCE JANUARY 2001

Source: Privacy and American Business

Posted on August 22, 2003

      According to the results of a new survey funded by Privacy & American Business (P) and conducted by Harris Interactive, 33.4 million Americans have been victims of identity theft or fraud since 1990, with over 13 million since January 2001 and rising.

      Designed by Dr. Alan Westin, Professor Emeritus of Public Law and Government at Columbia University, the online survey was conducted May 19-27, 2003 and involved 3,462 U.S. adults 18 and older. The survey defined identity theft as a situation where someone assumes the identity of another and makes telephone calls or obtains merchandise, credit, or other valuable things in their name.

      The seven million victims the survey identified in 2002 represent an 81% rise over victims in 2001. Thirty-eight percent of victims (13-14 million Americans) incurred out-of-pocket expenses and have paid an average of $1.5 billion per year since January 2001.

      Based on actual amounts volunteered by respondents, the average cost per victim for this time period was $740. Westin noted that ID theft is broadly spread through the American community. "ID theft has become the all-American crime of the Information Age," he observed.

      Of those who knew how the ID theft or fraud was committed: 34% said someone obtained their credit card information, forged a credit card in their name, and used it to make purchases; 12% said someone stole or obtained improperly a paper or computer record with their personal information on it and used that to forge their identity; and, 16% said a friend, relative or co-worker stole their identity.

      "These results document that ID theft and fraud are now both an organized and a freelance criminal activity of major proportions. Furthermore, the diverse patterns of ID theft show that no one institution, industry, or government agency is 'to blame.'

      But, some information practices and procedures of key players - including consumers - clearly need to be improved and important new consumer-assistance laws need to be enacted," Westin said.




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