San Diego, CA (March 1, 2013) Identity theft complaints continue to rank number one in the Federal Trade Commission's list of complaints, with a 32% increase over 2011. Of the 369,132 complaints reported in 2012, 46.4% involved issues with government documents or benefits fraud.
This represents a drastic spike of nearly 70% over the same types of cases last year. In a state by state comparison, Florida continues to rank first in this type of identity theft, with 72% of the reported complaints involving government tax or benefits fraud. Georgia (+66%), Mississippi (+58%), Michigan (+54%) and Louisiana (+53%) rounded out the top five states.
In contrast to the raw occurrence rate, those states with the highest rate of change in 2012 over 2011 are as follows: (1) Alaska (30%), (2) Rhode Island (25%), (3) Wisconsin, Kentucky, West Virginia and Maine (23%), (4) Michigan 22%, and (5) Florida and Kansas 21%. (Kansas ranked 35th in percentage of government tax or benefits complaints, but made the top 5 in rate of increase in 2012 over 2011).
The growth in reporting government ID theft, as well as the increase in reporting from several smaller states, could be a reflection of either an increase in this type of crime, or an increase in awareness and reporting of this type of identity theft. It is likely a combination of the two. While the IRS doesn't report complaints directly to the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network, its dedicated effort to build consumer awareness and education about the issue of tax fraud has likely contributed to consumers more often reporting this issue to the FTC, thus capturing this growth.
As with any type of identity theft, consumers need to have a better understanding of what has occurred, in order to further understand who they need to report the issue to - in this case, either law enforcement, a Better Business Bureau, another reporting government agency, or directly to the FTC.
"The Identity Theft Resource Center has also seen a growth in this type of identity theft crime as well", said ITRC CEO Eva Casey Velasquez. "These types of cases very often involve the use of Social Security numbers making them more complex than other types of identity theft. As we are fully into tax season, we anticipate that there will continue to be increases in the reporting of this crime. Government related identity theft has averaged approximately 25% of total cases handled by the ITRC for the last two years and was 25% of our total cases in January 2013 as well. We will continue to monitor these trends and will release our 2013 tax time numbers in April."
In 2012 the number of complaints reported to the Consumer Sentinel Network grew to 2,061,495 up from 1,895,012 in 2011, for an increase of nearly nine percent. The ITRC, based in San Diego CA, also notes that California, the most populous state in the nation remains 3rd in the number of identity theft complaints per capita.
About the ITRC
The Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a nationally recognized non-profit organization established to support victims of identity theft in resolving their cases, and to broaden public education and awareness in the understanding of identity theft. Visit www.idtheftcenter.org. Victims may contact the ITRC at 888-400-5530.