WASHINGTON – Over 27 million American consumers have had theiridentities stolen and used to commit theft and fraud in the lastfive years, according to a survey released by the Federal TradeCommission. According to the survey, last year's identity theftlosses to businesses and financial institutions totaled nearly $48billion and consumer victims reported $5 billion in out-of-pocketexpenses, the agency said. “These numbers are the real thing,” saidHoward Beales, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.“For several years we have been seeing anecdotal evidence thatidentity theft is a significant problem that is on the rise. Now weknow. It is affecting millions of consumers and costing billions ofdollars.” While most identity thieves use consumer personalinformation to make purchases, the survey reports that 15% of allvictims-almost 1.5 million people in the last year-reported thattheir personal information was misused in general ways, to obtaingovernment documents, for example, or on tax forms. The most commongeneral misuse took place when the thief used the victim's name andidentifying information when stopped by law enforcement or caughtcommitting a crime. The release of the survey drew attention fromCapitol Hill where House Financial Services Committee ChairmanMichael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) said, “Identity theft is one of thefastest growing crimes threatening Americans, and the FTC andChairman Tim Muris are to be commended for giving us a fullerpicture of its scope. The report demonstrates the urgent need forCongress to pass the powerful identity theft legislation approvedby the Financial Services Committee in July.” The Fair and AccurateCredit Transactions Act (FACT) passed the House Financial ServicesCommittee by 61-3 with support from both Republicans and Democrats.The measure will give consumers full access to their credithistories, as well as strengthened ability to fix fraudulent orincorrect information. Most Find They Have More Accounts Than TheyKnew The FTC survey found in the past 12 months that 3.23 millionconsumers discovered that new accounts had been opened, and otherfrauds such as renting an apartment or home, obtaining medical careor employment, had been committed in their name. In those cases,the loss to businesses and financial institutions was $10,200 pervictim, the agency reported. Individual victims lost an average of$1,180. Where the thieves solely used a victim's establishedaccounts, the loss to businesses was $2,100 per victim. For allforms of identity theft, the loss to businesses was an average$4,800 and the loss to consumers was $500, on average. According tothe survey results, 52% of all ID theft victims, approximately 5million people in the last year, discovered that they were victimsof identity theft by monitoring their accounts. Another 26% –approximately 2.5 million people – reported that they were alertedto suspicious account activity by companies such as credit cardissuers or banks. Eight percent reported that they first learnedwhen they applied for credit and were turned down. Sixty-sevenpercent of identity theft victims – more than 6.5 million victimsin the last year – report that existing credit card accounts weremisused and 19% reported that checking or savings accounts weremisused. The survey reports that 51% of the victims, or about 5million people, say they know how their personal information wasobtained. Nearly one-quarter of all victims said their informationwas lost or stolen, including lost or stolen credit cards,checkbooks or social security cards. Stolen mail was the source ofinformation for identity thieves in 4% of all victims – 400,000 inthe last year. [email protected]

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