The past two years have ushered in a changing landscape for identity theft protection.
The pandemic brought about immediate and widespread changes to nearly every area of life. And while we have more or less adjusted to this “new normal,” some of the changes have opened up new opportunities for cybercriminals. Identity theft and other forms of fraud have risen significantly since 2019.
Coupled with the increased sense of uncertainty the pandemic has created, this rise in cybercrime has sparked greater demand for protection against identity theft.
Identity Theft Doubled in the First Year of the Pandemic
As the world was thrust into uncertainty in 2020, scammers exploited the situation, preying on widespread concern for this global crisis.
Reports of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020. And tax-related identity theft more than tripled: the FTC reported 89,390 claims of tax identity theft in 2020 vs 27,450 claims in 2019!
The AARP reported that a whopping $3.3 billion was lost through identity fraud in 2020, up from an already-record-high $1.8 billion in 2019.
This increase has been fueled by the growth of scams meant to trick consumers into sending money, giving out their personal information, or clicking on links that deliver malware to their devices or network.
By posing as trusted companies or government agencies, scammers try to collect personal identifying information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, birth dates, and so on. They do this through text messages, emails, phone calls…even through social media and video conferencing services like Zoom.
Then, once they steal personal data, they use that information to apply for government services and benefits, open credit card accounts or bank accounts, or apply for loans.
New Scams Have Arisen During the Pandemic
These types of scams aren’t entirely new, but the pandemic has seen an influx of scams specifically focused on pandemic stimulus, unemployment, and medical supplies, as well as those taking advantage of remote employees.
Here are a few of the new identity theft scams that have arisen over the past two years:
- Bogus unemployment claims. According to an FTC report, there were nearly 400,000 identity theft incidents in 2020 related to unemployment insurance benefits—up nearly 3,000% from 2019! This constitutes the biggest surge in identity theft reports to the FTC in 2020.
- Stolen federal stimulus payments and small business loans. Scammers used stolen personal information on the IRS’ portal to request stimulus payments, claiming checks that weren’t rightfully theirs. Others used stolen personal data to apply for and obtain government-sponsored loans meant for small businesses affected by the pandemic. Those victims only learned of the theft when they started receiving notices to repay the loans.
- Impersonating government agencies. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported a rise in emails impersonating the CDC and other government organizations claiming to offer information about COVID-19. Links and attachments in these emails, when clicked, unleashed malware and allowed scammers to steal personal information from unsuspecting users.
- Medical supply scams. Fake websites have been created, posing as medical or health organizations selling products that claim to prevent, diagnose, or treat COVID-19. Others impersonate medical supply companies selling personal protective equipment. Still others offer “cures” (natural or pharmaceutical), vaccines, testing kits, or other in-demand products at low prices. These sites are mainly designed to steal your credit card information or deliver malware to your computer. Others may simply take your money and not deliver the products you order.
- Phony Zoom meeting invitations. Scammers have taken advantage of remote workers by sending fake Zoom invitations to phony online meetings in order to steal their passwords. Clicking the link in those scam emails directs users to websites that look similar to Zoom meeting screens but are actually designed to get the user to input their login information. Learn more about improving your online security in our recent blog.
Other fraud attempts have risen as well, such as phony offers of debt relief, impersonating a bank or financial institution representative, or impersonating legitimate business correspondence.
The Demand for Identity Theft Protection Is Rising
Security and peace of mind are fundamental human needs. During this difficult and unpredictable season, there has been a greater focus on ensuring that those needs are met.
Since the pandemic began, we have all been more focused on our well being and that of our families and wider community—physically, emotionally (mental health concerns have skyrocketed), and also financially.
The pandemic brought financial uncertainty to many families, with layoffs, business closings, and other economic challenges. Less income meant more worries about making payments on mortgages and other debts. Add to that the increase in pandemic-related scams, and many have found themselves more concerned than ever about their financial security.
This has led to a widespread spike in demand for identity theft protection services.
Identity theft is a threat to us all. That’s why Securus Partner Solutions offers identity theft protection plans to help people take control of their personal data and get the protection they need.
Contact us to discuss your specific needs and learn how our plans can help!