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Identity thieves use personal data they have stolen to open bank and credit card accounts, buy cars and merchandise, rent apartments, and obtain medical care and employment in the victim's name.
According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, security breaches since February 2005 have exposed more than 100 million data records of U.S. residents, including Social Security numbers, credit card account numbers and driver's license numbers. The San Diego-based nonprofit consumer information and advocacy organization maintains a chronology of breaches that expose individuals to identity theft.
Although U.S. adult identity fraud victims decreased from 9.3 million in 2005 to 8.9 million in 2006, the value of the fraud rose from $54.4 billion in 2005 to $56.6 billion in 2006, according to a Javelin/Better Business Bureau survey.
The total resolution time--or the time it takes a victim of identity theft to straighten out his or her credit records and restore his or her identity--was at an all-time high of 40 hours in 2006. That compares with 28 hours in 2005, according to the 2006 Javelin/Better Business Bureau survey.