Nearly 10 million Americans hit by identify theft

While everything else is slipping, identity theft is on the rise, jumping to a record 9.9 million victims in 2008, which is up 22% from 2007. Approximately one in 23 U.S. adults became victims, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, who released their fifth annual study today. Total loses increased after three straight years of decline, but the loss per victim fell by 12% to $4,849 from $5,488. The most positive trend is that individuals spent 31% less (an average of $496) to clean up the mess. More than half of victims didn't have to spend anything to clean up after a fraud.

James Van Dyke, president of Javelin told CNN, "Identity fraud has been dropping until last year, boom, there was a turn-up. The only thing we can logically attribute that to is the economy. If people need to make money, and decide to do so illicitly, identity fraud is the logical opportunity."

Improper use of checkbooks and credit or debit cards after a wallet or pocketbook is lost or stolen remains the most common means of identity theft -- 43% of all incidents can be traced to this cause. About 25% of victims had their PINs compromised on ATM cards. Online fraud was the reason for 11% of cases.

So who's most likely to be a victim? People with incomes over $75,000 were more likely to be hit than those with lower earnings. By age, the highest fraud rate is among people between 35 and 44. Ethnically Hispanics were hit the most followed by African-Americans, Caucasians and Asians.