Almost ten million US citizens had their identities stolen in the past year, resulting in billions of dollars of losses to businesses and financial institutions, according to the latest batch of statistics from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC says that 27.3 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years, including 9.9 million people in the last year alone. According to the survey, last year's identity theft losses to businesses and financial institutions totalled nearly $48 billion and consumer victims reported $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.
"These numbers are the real thing," says Howard Beales, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection. "For several years we have been seeing anecdotal evidence that identity theft is a significant problem that is on the rise. Now we know. It is affecting millions of consumers and costing billions of dollars."
According to the survey results, 52% of all ID theft victims, approximately five million people in the last year, discovered that they were victims of identity theft by monitoring their accounts. Another 26% - approximately 2.5 million people - reported that they were alerted to suspicious account activity by companies such as credit card issuers or banks.
In total, more than 6.5 million victims (67%) in the last year reported misuse of credit card accounts, while 19 percent found that their current or savings accounts had been tampered with.
Nearly one-quarter of all victims said their information was lost or stolen, including lost or stolen credit cards, cheque books or social security cards.