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7/26/2005
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One In Four Identity-Theft Victims Never Fully Recover

Making things right after a stolen identity can take months and cost thousands, a survey of identity-theft victims finds.

Making things right after a stolen identity can take months and cost thousands, a survey of identity theft victims released Tuesday said. Worse, in more than one in four cases, victims haven't been able to completely restore their good name.

The survey, conducted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., found that 28 percent of identity thieves' marks aren't able to reconstruct their identities even after more than a year of work. On average, victims spent 81 hours trying to resolve their case.

According to the poll, the average amount of total charges made using a victim's identity was $3,968. Fortunately, most were not held responsible for the fraudulent charges; 16 percent, however, reported that they had to pay for some or all of the bogus purchases.

Other results posted by the survey were just as dispiriting. More than half of the victims discovered the theft on their own by noticing unusual charges on credit cards or depleted bank accounts, but that took time: on average, five and a half months passed between when the theft occurred and when it was spotted.

Only 17 percent were notified by a creditor or financial institution of suspicious activity, a figure that's certain to fuel federal lawmakers pondering legislation that would require public disclosure of large data breaches.

"The survey shows that recovering from identity theft can be difficult, costly, and stressful, but what is most alarming is that despite the time, money, and personal duress victims go through, resolution is not always achieved," said Kirk Herath, the associate general counsel for Nationwide, in a statement.

No wonder. Forty percent of the victims polled named the police, their financial institution, or their credit card issuer as the "most difficult" to work with when trying to revolve the problem. Poor customer service was cited as one of the more egregious problems encountered.

A surveyed victim from Orlando, Fla., for instance, noted: "The institution we do all of our banking with made us feel like we were the ones trying to 'pull' something."

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