Identity Fraud Continues to Skyrocket

NEW YORK (LowCards.com) — Identity theft is happening all the time — literally.

A report by Javelin Strategy & Research shows that there was a new identity fraud victim nearly every two seconds last year, making for an estimated 13.1 million victims of identity fraud — up nearly 500,000 from the year before.

The study shows that 44% of the fraud — defined in the report as an "unauthorized use of another person's personal information to achieve illicit financial gain" — involved an online transaction.

The only good news in the report was that criminals stole less money last year. The total amount stolen dropped to $18 billion last year from $21 billion the year before.

Pay attention to the data breach notices, because it is becoming more likely you will be a victim of identity fraud. Last year, one-third of consumers who got a data-breach notification became a victim of fraud, and that figure was just one in five in 2011.

Identity thieves have also become more aggressive. Instead of stealing your personal information and opening a new account, they are taking over existing bank or credit card accounts. The survey said this took place in about 28% of identity fraud losses last year, up from 24% the year before.

Identity thieves are not restricting their efforts to bank accounts. The report showed that identity fraud carried over to other financial accounts where consumers keep their money, such as on eBay and PayPal. These thefts tripled last year and accounted for $5 billion in losses.

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