Communication, work, school, shopping, and even doctor visits have undergone massive digital transformations over the past year. Identity thieves are evolving alongside us to better exploit victims in an increasingly digital world. The result is a sharp increase in both the number of fraud incidents and the amount of money lost ($ 712 billion in 2020 according to the Aite group).
Check out these eight facts that illustrate the scale of the identity theft crisis. Next, assess your risk and develop a plan to protect your identity.
1. Fraud and identity theft increased 45% from 2019 to 2020.
Life has changed dramatically in the past year. Confusion over the COVID-19 pandemic has met with rapid transitions to work and distance learning. At the same time, many consumers have lost their jobs and their loved ones. Together, these factors have contributed to a sharp increase in scams, fraud and identity theft, nearly doubling the number of identity theft reports consumers submitted to the FTC in 2019.
2. 29% of all reports submitted to the FTC were about identity theft.
Consumers nationwide have submitted 1.4 million identity theft reports to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network. Identity theft was the most reported incident, overtaking common types of scams like impostors and online shopping scams.
3. Reports of thieves taking accounts have increased by 72% since 2019.
As more and more services evolve online, so do consumers’ private information. One of the consequences is an increase in data breaches for businesses and account takeovers for consumers. A study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that not only are account takeovers on the rise, they also present a higher risk of financial loss.
4. Generation Y is now the most common target for identity theft.
Consumers aged 30 to 39 made up the largest share of reported identity theft victims in 2020, and they also remain the most common identity theft reporters so far this year.
5. 23,651 incidents of identity theft affected persons under the age of 19.
Unfortunately, children are not immune to identity theft and it often takes longer to recognize that identity theft occurred when the victims are young. Some thieves may even get away with the ploy for years before being caught, so it’s never too early to watch a credit report.
6. Social media users are 30% more likely to be victims of identity theft.
Thieves can learn tons of valuable information about their potential victims just by looking at social media. Even taking a Facebook quiz can increase your exposure to identity theft by collecting information that helps thieves hack your accounts. In addition, thieves frequently contact victims through social media.
7. Most consumers underestimate their risk of identity theft.
An Experian survey found that most consumers don’t really believe they are at risk of identity theft. Consumers do not fully understand the size of their digital footprint. Others believe that poor credit makes them unattractive to thieves. In fact, sharing personal information on social media, using a public Wi-Fi network, and even sharing login credentials with friends and family can increase your chances of being a victim.
8. Identity theft has lasting emotional effects on victims.
Identity theft takes a heavy toll on the mental health of victims. Repairing accounts, claiming reimbursement, and improving privacy guarantees can lead to stress, fatigue, and even depression. The emotional effects can impact work, school, and relationships, and former victims are more likely to experience identity theft again.
Identity theft is a major risk for anyone with a paper trail or digital fingerprint. In other words, everyone has some level of risk. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to protect yourself. Make sure you practice good digital hygiene by following BBB’s guide to data privacy.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, report it to the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov and BBB Scam Tracker.
Katie Galan is BBB’s regional manager serving Heart of Texas. She can be reached at 844-222-4968 or [email protected]