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US identity theft losses dropped 11.5 per cent last year to $49.3bn, according to a new study.

The third annual study on the crime by Javelin Strategy & Research attributes the decline in identity theft from a high of $55.7bn in 2005 to greater awareness among both consumers and businesses. The study bucks the trend in previous studies by Javelin and other US fraud watchers, which have consistently portrayed ID theft as the fastest-growing online crime.

Javelin reckons 8.4m adult US citizens (about four per cent) were the victims of ID theft last year, compared to 8.9m in 2005. Young adults (under 25), African-Americans and the rich were more likely to suffer from the crime.

For individual unfortunate enough to have criminals impersonate them in securing fraudulent lines of credit, mean losses fell nine per cent to $5,720 from $6,278. Median losses - where half the sample set are larger and half are smaller - remained the same at $750.

Javelin's figure came from a phone poll of 5,000 people, 469 of which said they were fraud victims. The study was sponsored by Visa and US bank Wells Fargo. ®

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