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Identity fraud in U.S. is on the rise, report

Scammers are increasingly gaining access to people's personal information through data breaches and malicious software attacks.

While cyberattacks and hacking seem to be constantly making headlines these days, identity fraud is also on the rise.

A new report by Javelin Strategy and Research shows that identity fraud has increased for the last three years in a row -- affecting more than 5 percent of U.S. adults. In 2012, 12.6 million people were identity victims.

According to Javelin, identity fraud is up 4.9 percent from 2011 and 4.35 percent from 2010. The firm said that scammers are increasingly gaining access to people's personal information and accounts through data breaches and malware attacks.

The report, "Data Breaches Becoming a Treasure Trove for Fraudsters," details the types of identity fraud that are now on the rise. The two main scams are "account takeover fraud" and "new account fraud." The account takeover fraud involves a criminal accessing an individual's personal information and changing the contact information; whereas, new account fraud means a criminal using someone's identity to open a new type of account, such as a credit card account.

New account fraud "poses a growing threat to consumer identities and private industry's bottom line -- especially as the total fraud loss has doubled from 2011, to $9.8 billion," Javelin said, according to Computerworld.

While a significant number of people in the U.S. have experienced identity theft, relatively few have lost big sums of money. According to Javelin, merchants and banks have absorbed the majority of losses.

Javelin's data was gathered by surveying more than 5,000 U.S. adults, including nearly 900 people who were fraud victims within the last six years.