Online marketing has prompted more than 13 million people to open credit card accounts since 1996, four million last year alone, according to surveys by Brittain Associates Inc., an Atlanta market research firm.

The most recent survey, which covered accounts opened in 2000, was done by random-number dialing to 2,004 households, and Brittain extrapolated national numbers from the results. The surveyers interviewed only adults who identified themselves as the head of the household. "We didn't want to talk to students who live at home," said Bruce Brittain, president.

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