ID theft creates opportunities for data companies

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Security

For its victims, identity theft means worry, headache and countless time spent restoring bad credit. But for some businesses, the collective fear that consumer identities may be stolen can mean opportunity.

The surge in identity theft, estimated to affect more than 9 million Americans each year at a cost of $50 billion, is spurring credit bureaus and banks to offer credit-monitoring services designed to protect against fraud and guarantee peace of mind.

There is broad consensus that consumers need access to credit information, but many advocates question whether some new services are taking advantage of growing fears.

Some companies that have made headlines by compromising sensitive consumer data in the past are now selling these watch-dog services to their customers.

"Making money on identity theft is a growth industry and it's just not pretty."

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