Identity theft cases increased 50 percent in past year

Last week the Federal Trade Commission documented the most cases of identity theft ever in one year in the 2008 Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data.

In 2008, the FTC reported that it had received approximately 1,200,000 complaints related to fraud, identity theft and other consumer complaints, an approximately 50 percent increase over the previous year. Those consumers reported fraud related losses of more than $1.8 billion. While the report showed that identity theft is widespread, the states reporting the most complaints - Arizona, California, and Florida - coincide with the states reporting the highest rates of foreclosure, demonstrating that the economic downturn has coincided with an upturn in fraud.

"This FTC report confirms what we have been seeing in the online chat rooms where identity thieves buy and sell stolen personal information. Since we are constantly monitoring these rooms on behalf of our customers, we've been able to track a significant increase in activity over the last six months," said Dan Clements, vice president, Affinion Security Center, a provider of identity theft protection services. "In fact, we think that the number of complaints that the FTC receives are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are actually many more cases of identity theft that go unreported. Americans, more than any other nation, are vulnerable to identity theft," he added.

The FTC report also showed that credit card fraud was the most common form of identity theft. 2008 also demonstrated a more than 50 percent increase in the percentage of identity theft complaints related to fraudulent tax returns filed.

"The difficult economic environment is coinciding with a significant increase in cases of identity theft," said Tom Rusin, president of Affinion Security Center.

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