good names, and financial institutions lose nearly $5,000 per victim. And those are not the only costs.

By MSN Money staff

Nearly 10 million Americans fell victim to some kind of identity theft last year. Some didn't know anything was amiss for months. Some played right into the hands of phishers and other con artists.

What happens when scammers grab your data? "Dateline" went trolling for greedy opportunists and didn't have to wait long. Its bait cards went from $0 to maxed out in minutes, with charges rolling in from around the globe. (Watch the video to the right.)

What's it like to try to recover from an identity thief's knockout punch? Statistics help tell the story:

  • The typical victim spends 44 hours recovering from identity theft.

  • Identity theft victims spend an average of $500 repairing damage to their good names and credit records.
  • Identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years.

  • Financial institutions lose an estimated average of $4,800 per victim to identity thieves.

  • In 16% of all cases, the victims knew the people who had misused their personal information. And 6% of victims reported family members as the people responsible.

  • An estimated 25% of victims who had new accounts opened in their names did not discover that their identities had been stolen until at least six months after it occurred, compared with just 3% of identity theft victims who experienced only the misuse of existing accounts.
  • People ages 45 to 54 were most likely to be victims of identity theft. In the 2006 FTC study, they represented 31% of all identity theft victims.

  • Younger and older adults are less likely to be victims of identity theft. Those ages 18 to 24 made up just 9% of identity theft victims. Similarly, those 65 and older made up just 9% of victims.

  • Twenty-four percent of identity theft complaints received by the FTC were from members of a part of Generation Y (ages 20 to 29).

Sources: Federal Trade Commission, Javelin Strategy and Research

Published Oct. 23, 2009

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