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Reports by victims of incidents in which crooks used their identities to obtain new credit card accounts grew by seven percentage points from autumn 2007 to autumn 2008, according to a new report by Javelin Strategy & Research Inc. The Pleasanton, Calif.-based research and consulting firm based its findings on telephone interviews with 4,784 American consumers between Sept. 19 and Nov. 7, 2008. Of those respondents, 487 of whom were victims of identity fraud and 146 of whom reported a variety of fraudulent new accounts opened in their names. Among the new-account fraud victims, 33% in October said fraudsters had opened new credit card accounts in their names, up from 26% who said so a year earlier. Twenty-six percent of victims reported thieves had opened new store-branded credit cards in their names, down from 29%. Only 15% reported other types of fraudulent loans taken out in their names, down from 21% a year earlier. Applying for a credit card is more straightforward and requires less verified personal information than does applying for other types of loans, report author Rachel Kim tells CardLine. Credit cards also provide "the most financial gain" for thieves, she adds. "They can get a card, make charges and not get caught," Kim says. To combat new-account fraud, Javelin recommends consumers request one of their free annual credit reports from each of the three credit-reporting agencies at three different times of the year instead of all three reports at the same time once a year, a strategy Kim calls staggered credit monitoring. Consumers also can set up fraud alerts tied to their credit reports, a move that is particularly helpful for consumers who already have been victims of identity theft. Issuers also could help their customers combat new-account fraud by integrating fraud-monitoring services into online banking and credit card Web sites and by sending existing customers alerts any time their credit reports show someone has applied for new credit in their names, Kim says.

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