Identity Theft Awareness Week
COVID-19 has brought a higher risk of identity theft. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it received about 1.4 million reports of identity theft. That's double the number from 2019. Repeatedly, thieves targeted government funds earmarked to help people suffering financially because the pandemic. This year, the FTC is encouraging all to learn about protecting themselves during Identity Theft Awareness Week, February 1-5.
The FTC and its partners will co-host a series of free events. Among them, a webinar with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), and a Facebook Live event where experts will answer your questions. Visit ftc.gov/IDtheftweek to learn more.
2020’s biggest surge in identity theft reports to the FTC related to the nationwide dip in employment. After the government expanded unemployment benefits to people left jobless by the pandemic, cybercriminals filed unemployment claims using other people’s personal information. In 2020, 394,280 reports about government benefits fraud were made, overwhelmingly about identity theft involving unemployment benefits. Compare that with just 12,900 reports in 2019.
People also reported identity theft in which criminals used their business or personal information to get money from government-sponsored small business loan programs. Last year, 99,650 reports of fraud involving business or personal loans came into the FTC, compared with 43,920 reports in 2019.
In 2020, the FTC received 89,390 reports of tax identity theft, compared with 27,450 reports in 2019. While many of the reports concerned other types of tax identity theft, the report numbers began to swell when distribution of the stimulus payments began.