In Q1 2012, fraudsters traded 12 million pieces of personal information online, or a 200 percent increase over 2010. Most people were unaware their identity had been stolen until they were denied access to something. Identity theft victims commonly experience refusal of loans or credit cards (14 percent), debts being run up in their name (9 percent), refusal of mobile phone contracts (7 percent), and being chased by debt collectors for money they do not owe (7 percent).
The data comes from credit-checking firm Experian, cited by the BBC. The firm blamed the increase of identity theft on the fact that people are signing up for an increasing number of online accounts. On average, most users have 26 online accounts, but use only around five different passwords.
In the last few months, there has been a slew of attacks on websites resulting in user accounts being compromised. Here's a quick list, in no particular order: LinkedIn, eHarmony, Last.fm, , , , , and . The total number of users affected is around 10 million, so far.
If you have an account with any of these sites, you should change your password, just to be on the safe side. Furthermore, if you use the same e-mail address and password combination elsewhere, you should change it there as well. In fact, you should make an effort to change your password on a regular basis, and make it more complicated as well.