Identity thieves hit 15 million Americans in the 12 months ending mid-2006, according to a new survey by Gartner. The Federal Trade Commission reported 9.9 million American adult identity theft victims in 2003, indicating that since then such crime has jumped 50%.

Victims were taken for an average of $3,257 in 2006, up from $1,408 in 2005. Losses are getting harder to recoup, too, with the percentage of funds consumers managed to recover dropping from 87% in 2005 to 61% in 2006.

Electronic theft of sensitive information remains a leading cause of certain types of fraud, including credit card, debit/ATM card and bank account transfer fraud.

As if there were not enough existing ways to scam personal data, crackers have been inventing new ones, noted Avivah Litan of Gartner. "Thieves are exploiting Internet auctions, nonregulated money transmittal systems and the ability to impersonate lottery and sweepstake contests," Ms. Litan reported.

Of course, check fraud was around before the PC, and in-person data theft is still the leading cause of check forgery and new account fraud. The average loss on new account fraud was $5,962 in 2006. 

Via eMarketer