US customers of HSBC, Bank of America and Washington Mutual have been found to suffer the highest rates of identity theft, according to research from the University of California at Berkeley.
Chris Hoofnagle, a senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Hoofnagle obtained figures for January, March and September 2006, which show that 88,560 complaints were made to the FTC, of which 46,262 included the identification of institutions.
The data shows HSBC has the highest estimated incidence of fraud per billion dollars in deposits among the 25 largest US banks in 2006. HSBC suffered about 21 incidents per billion dollars, followed by Bank of America/MBNA with around 18 and WaMu/Providian on 16. In contrast ING had just one reported incident.
Bank of America/MBNA is top of the incidents per month chart, averaging 1117 per month for January, March and September 2006. JP Morgan/Chase/Bank One followed with 613 incidents, Citibank with 413.3 incidents and American Express 303.3.
Hoofnagle says that although the FTC publishes an annual ID theft report it does not break down the figures and reveal the names of the banks most frequently targeted.
"There is no reliable way for consumers, regulators, and businesses to assess the relative incidence of identity fraud at major financial institutions," says Hoofnagle in his report. "This lack of information prevents more vigorous competition among institutions to protect account holders from identity theft."
Despite its poor showing in Hoofnagle's research, Bank of America came out top in a 2006 study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research examining how well US financial services firms prevent, detect and resolve consumer identity theft.
Bank of America received the highest overall ranking in the Javelin study - which surveyed 24 of the top financial institutions in the US - and was closely followed by JP Morgan Chase and Washington Mutual.
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