A recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study found that 8.3 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2005, and the number is rising. In at least half of the incidents, thieves obtained goods or services worth $500 or less; however in 10 percent of cases, thieves got at least $6,000 worth of goods or services.
Fifty-six percent of all victims were unable to provide any information on how their personal information was stolen. Identity thieves use personal information to impersonate a victim, stealing from bank accounts, establishing phony insurance policies, opening unauthorized credit cards or obtaining unauthorized bank loans.
Use of stolen credit card and debit card numbers is among the most common forms of identity theft. Some schemes use electronic means, including online scams like “phishing,” while others might use more old-fashioned methods, such as “dumpster diving”—rooting around in people’s garbage to collect financial information.
The advent of new, “no-swipe” credit cards that transmit account and user information through radio frequency identification may make it possible, in some cases, for identity thieves to use a simple electronic device to capture the information.