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ID Theft Hits 3.6 Million U.S. Households

An estimated 3.6 million households reported being victimized by identity theft in 2004, about three percent of all U.S. homes, said a government study released Sunday.

The Department of Justice survey said that households headed by people in the 18-24 age range and those in the $75,000 or higher income bracket were the most likely to be victims, while rural residents were hit only half as much as those living in urban areas. But an unlucky 216,000 households were struck two or more times by identity theft in the second half of 2004, the period from which data was culled by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics using national crime numbers.

About half of the identity theft cases were unauthorized credit card purchases, while one-sixth of the affected households were victimized by the use of personal information to obtain new credit cards or loans, run up debts, and open other accounts. The remainder experienced theft from checking or debit card accounts, the study found. Three out of ten discovered the crime when money went missing or strange charges appeared on credit card bills, the report read.

According to the government's numbers, identify theft fell from 2003, when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported about 10.1 million people were hit with the crime that year.

Other recent surveys back the idea that identity fraud is decreasing. In January, a study done for the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said that the percentage of Americans affected by identity theft fell from 4.7 to 4.0 percent between 2003 and the beginning of 2006.

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