22 January 2004

Identity Theft, Internet Fraud Reports Up in U.S.

Identity Theft, Internet Fraud Reports Up in U.S.:

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By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans reported losses of $437 million last year to identity theft and fraud as scam artists made themselves at home on the Internet, according to federal statistics released on Thursday.

The Federal Trade Commission said it received more than half a million consumer complaints in 2003 as scam artists financed their spending sprees with other people's credit cards and hucksters sold nonexistent products through online auction sites like eBay Inc .

But Americans are becoming more aware of the problem and act quickly when they discover they've been victimized, said Howard Beales, head of the FTC's consumer protection division.

Identity theft -- the practice of running up bills or committing crimes in someone else's name -- topped the list with 215,000 complaints, up 33 percent from the previous year."

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