Identity theft victims have doubled during COVID-19, with a record 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2020, according to the latest FTC report. The surge in identity theft reports is closely linked to the financial hardship and nationwide rise in unemployment that prompted cybercriminals to turn their attention to government unemployment benefits.
In 2020, the FTC received 394,280 reports of government benefits fraud, compared to just 12,900 in 2019.
“After the government expanded unemployment benefits to people left jobless by the pandemic, cybercriminals filed unemployment claims using other people’s personal information,” the agency said.
Recently, two San Diego residents received a combined sentence of 33 years in federal prison for stealing personally identifiable information (PII) of Wolf & Associates clients and using it to apply for more than $2 million in fraudulent unemployment claims.
Threat actors also used the government’s small business loan program in identity-theft schemes, prompting 99,650 reports of fraud involving business or personal loans, more than double the number of reports filed in 2019.
Additionally, identity theft and fraud cases continued to rise with the IRS’ distribution of federal stimulus payments. The agency received a whopping 89,390 reports concerning tax identity theft, a 226% increase from 27,450 reports in 2019.
The announcement is part of the FTC’s Identity Theft Awareness Week, which seeks to warn consumers about online risks and teach them how to avoid becoming identity theft victims.
As digital privacy defenders and promoters of good cyber hygiene, we stand alongside internet users in the battle to secure and protect their online identities from cybercriminals.
You can learn more about how to take ownership of your personal data and protect against identity-theft related crimes by enriching your digital privacy knowledge with clear and concise tips.
Not sure where to start your investigation on what the digital world knows about you? Check now with Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection.