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WASHINGTON – Over 27 million American consumers have had their identities stolen and used to commit theft and fraud in the last five years, according to a survey released by the Federal Trade Commission. According to the survey, last year’s identity theft losses to businesses and financial institutions totaled nearly $48 billion and consumer victims reported $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses, the agency said. “These numbers are the real thing,” said Howard Beales, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “For several years we have been seeing anecdotal evidence that identity theft is a significant problem that is on the rise. Now we know. It is affecting millions of consumers and costing billions of dollars.” While most identity thieves use consumer personal information to make purchases, the survey reports that 15% of all victims-almost 1.5 million people in the last year-reported that their personal information was misused in general ways, to obtain government documents, for example, or on tax forms. The most common general misuse took place when the thief used the victim’s name and identifying information when stopped by law enforcement or caught committing a crime. The release of the survey drew attention from Capitol Hill where House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) said, “Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes threatening Americans, and the FTC and Chairman Tim Muris are to be commended for giving us a fuller picture of its scope. The report demonstrates the urgent need for Congress to pass the powerful identity theft legislation approved by the Financial Services Committee in July.” The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT) passed the House Financial Services Committee by 61-3 with support from both Republicans and Democrats. The measure will give consumers full access to their credit histories, as well as strengthened ability to fix fraudulent or incorrect information. Most Find They Have More Accounts Than They Knew The FTC survey found in the past 12 months that 3.23 million consumers discovered that new accounts had been opened, and other frauds such as renting an apartment or home, obtaining medical care or employment, had been committed in their name. In those cases, the loss to businesses and financial institutions was $10,200 per victim, the agency reported. Individual victims lost an average of $1,180. Where the thieves solely used a victim’s established accounts, the loss to businesses was $2,100 per victim. For all forms of identity theft, the loss to businesses was an average $4,800 and the loss to consumers was $500, on average. According to the survey results, 52% of all ID theft victims, approximately 5 million people in the last year, discovered that they were victims of identity theft by monitoring their accounts. Another 26% – approximately 2.5 million people – reported that they were alerted to suspicious account activity by companies such as credit card issuers or banks. Eight percent reported that they first learned when they applied for credit and were turned down. Sixty-seven percent of identity theft victims – more than 6.5 million victims in the last year – report that existing credit card accounts were misused and 19% reported that checking or savings accounts were misused. The survey reports that 51% of the victims, or about 5 million people, say they know how their personal information was obtained. Nearly one-quarter of all victims said their information was lost or stolen, including lost or stolen credit cards, checkbooks or social security cards. Stolen mail was the source of information for identity thieves in 4% of all victims – 400,000 in the last year. [email protected]

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