Identity theft complaints increase significantly

The Federal Trade Commission has documented the most cases of identity theft ever in one year in the 2008 Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data. Affinion Security Center has also reported over the last six months an increase of approximately 25 percent in the illegal trade of personal information in online chat rooms where thieves buy and sell stolen information such as credit card and social security numbers.

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.

The FTC report also showed that credit card fraud was the most common form of identity theft. When credit card information is stolen, the thieves often turn to online chat rooms where they buy and sell this information and also conduct tests to ensure the validity of the card.

2008 also demonstrated a more than 50 percent increase in the percentage of identity theft complaints related to fraudulent tax returns filed.

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