An estimated 11.7 million persons, five percent of people in the U.S. 16 or older, were victims of identity theft during the two years before being surveyed in 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today. The financial losses totaled more than $17 billion. Identity theft was defined as the attempted or successful misuse of an existing account, such as a debit or credit account, misuse of personal information to open a new account, or misuse of personal information for other fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining government benefits.
About 6.2 million victims experienced the unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing credit card account; an estimated 4.4 million persons reported the misuse or attempted misuse of a banking account, such as a debit, checking, or savings account. Another 1.7 million persons experienced the fraudulent misuse of their information to open a new account, and about 618,900 persons reported the misuse of their information to commit other crimes, such as fraudulently obtaining medical care or government benefits or providing false information to law enforcement during a crime or traffic stop. About 17 percent of identity theft victims reported the incident to a law enforcement agency. The majority of victims (68 percent) reported the theft to a bank or credit card company.