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Nearly 12 million in U.S. were victims of identity theft, report says

December 16, 2010 |  7:00 am

Nearly 12 million people, about 5% of the U.S. population ages 16 and older, were victims of identity theft in a recent two-year period, the Department of Justice reported Thursday.

The most common type of theft was the unauthorized use of an existing credit-card account, according to the report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Others surveyed said their identity had been stolen to raid bank accounts or to open new credit-card accounts.

The report was based on a 2008 survey of 56,000 people ages 16 and older. Participants were asked whether they had been victimized in the prior two years.

Based on the survey results, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that the crimes caused $17.3 billion in damages to U.S. victims. Three-quarters of victims said they suffered no out-of-pocket financial loss, presumably because their banks covered the loss, the report said.

About 17% of victims reported the thefts to law enforcement. Many victims said they chose not to report the crime because they suffered no monetary loss or because they didn’t think police could help them.

--Stuart Pfeifer