Survey shows number of identity fraud victims rose in 2008

Research firm says the number of identity fraud victims increased last year but early detection cut consumer losses.

The number of identity fraud victims in the U.S. increased last year but quick detection reduced consumer losses, according to a new report by Javelin Strategy & Research.

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In a phone survey of about 4,800 U.S. consumers, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based research firm found that the number of identity fraud victims increased 22% to 9.9 million but total fraud losses increased only 7% over last year to $48 billion.

Javelin said the increase in fraud is likely due to the bad economy, but that consumers and businesses are detecting and resolving fraud more quickly. The mean consumer cost of an identity fraud incident was $496, down sharply from $718 last year. Javelin defines identity fraud as the unauthorized use of someone's personal information for financial gain.

The financial industry implemented stronger antifraud controls and made significant strides to resolve fraud incidents for their customers, James Van Dyke, Javelin president and founder, said in a prepared statement.

Lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks and credit and debit cards was still the most likely way fraudsters stole information, accounting for 43% of incidents where the access method was known, according to the study. Online methods accounted for just 11%.

Most identity fraud incidents involved Social Security numbers, names and addresses, but one in four victims experienced a PIN compromise on either their ATM, debit or credit cards, Javelin said.

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