A new study conducted at the University of California’s Berkeley Center for Law and Technology reveals which U.S. financial institutions have the highest occurrences of identity theft claims. Using the Freedom of Information

Act, researcher Chris Hoofnagle applied identity theft complaint data collected by the Federal Trade Commission in 2006 to research determining which institutions reported a higher incidence of theft. In releasing the results of the study, Hoofnagle aims to reveal to consumers which institutions reported a higher incidence of customer account takeovers.

More than ever, identity theft is an important issue, especially in an age where personal information hovers in cyberspace where billions upon billions of people surf each day. Thus, according to Hoofnagle, institutions owe it to customers to be open about theft concern.

On the whole, financial institutions recorded the most incidents of theft compared to other types of institutions.

Bank of America led the list with 3,351identity theft claims during January, March and September of 2006. JP Morgan/Chase/Bank One fell in at number two with 1,839 incidents, followed by Capital One with 1,328 incidents.

The results also recognized theft in the telecommunications industry with AT&T and Sprint leading with the highest occurrences; though, no metric exists in the research to compare financial institutions with telecom companies.

Hoofnagle admits to gaps in the research and welcomes “constructive criticism, suggestions, and comments in an effort to shine light on the identity theft problem.” The study is only an initial attempt to measure how institutions perform while handling theft.

Ultimately, Hoofnagle hopes his study will promote a standard dialogue between consumers and companies concerning the occurrence of identity theft. As the data is built upon and improved, consumers can use the information to choose safer institutions, and company regulators can better monitor theft and protect customers in addition to themselves.

By Kathleen Clark
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