ID Theft Use of Credit Cards Leaps

ID theft victims are much more likely to get hit with fraudulent charges on their credit cards or debit cards, according to a new study from the Identity Theft Resource Center that tracks the effects of ID theft.

In 2008, 39 percent of victims saw such charges, more than twice the 15 percent from 2007, according to the study. Opening a new credit account in the victim's name is still the most common use of a victim's identity, involving about two-thirds of all ID theft cases. The data is based on the experiences of ID theft victims who contact the ITRC.

While repairing the damage from ID theft involves some cost for things like police reports, photocopying, travel, etc., ranging from an average of US$739 for dealing with damage done to an existing account to $951 to fix the aftermath of a fraudulently opened new account, the real pain comes from the time spent dealing with the mess. It took 58 hours on average to deal with ID theft involving existing accounts, and a painful 165 hours for new accounts, the study found.

But among these foreboding figures the study does contain some good news. Only about a third of ID theft victims found out about the fraud because of some adverse aftereffect like a call from a collection agency or a denial of credit. The majority of victims found out about it themselves by noticing charges on a bill or a discrepancy on a credit report, for instance, or were notified proactively by either a company or government agency.

That's good news considering that recovering from ID theft can be a good deal less painful if it's discovered early. And it's a major drop from the 82 percent of victims in 2007 who only found out about the theft from an adverse situation, suggesting that both individuals and businesses are more on the lookout for ID theft.

For the full ITRC report (along with a wealth of other information on preventing and recovering from ID theft), head to the ITRC site. Also, here are some tips on how to stay on top of your own financial data, along with info on a site where you can opt-out of pre-approved credit offers, which can be an ID theft risk.

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