ID Theft Decreases in 2006

Incidents of identity theft are decreasing, and the average loss as a result of fraud has dropped, a new study suggests. The improvement may reflect a higher awareness of the problem by consumers and businesses, say experts.

A study released Thursday by Javelin Strategy & Research showed that Americans lost $49.3 billion during 2006 due to identity theft. While still a considerable amount of money, that is down 13 percent from $55.7 billion a year earlier.

One out of every 27 Americans, or about 8.4 million, was a victim of some type of fraud. That too has decreased, from 8.9 in 2005, and 10.1 million three years ago. The average loss was $5,720, down from $6,278 a year ago.

In order to clean up their credit and fight fraud, consumers were spending an average of $535, although the report noted that a majority had spent nothing to clear their names.

The issue of identity theft took center stage in 2006, as the media frequently covered incidents of data loss. However, in most cases, actual occurrences of identity theft due to these incidents were quite rare.

Studies suggest that only about 1 in 1,000 affected by these data releases actually end up being victims of fraud.

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