After a couple of years away from the top of the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, identity theft reports have returned to the top spot.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accepts agency, business and consumer-submitted reports of scams, fraud and other related crimes. They then compile those reports into a large online database called the Consumer Sentinel Network. This database is available to law enforcement around the country. When compiling the report each year, the FTC also maps the types of crimes that consumers submit and shares that data with the public.
The FTC received over 3.2 million reports of which the top three categories including identity theft, imposter scams, and telephone & mobile services. Identity theft encompasses a number of different types of crime, largely based on how the thief stole the information and what they did with it. For example, medical identity theft occurs when the thief uses stolen information and poses as a patient to receive medical care or pharmaceuticals. Government identity theft occurs when someone uses the stolen data to apply for government benefits, file a fraudulent tax return and other crimes. Child identity theft, as the name implies, happens when the victim is a child with a clean credit report or is not receiving government benefits and someone uses their Social Security number and information.
Just because other crimes eclipsed identity theft reports for a couple of years does not mean the number of incidents were insignificant. It only means that other crimes were more prevalent. Now, with identity theft reports returning to such a prominent position, it should serve as a warning to the public that all forms of identity theft, fraud and scams continue to be serious problems.
However, there are ways you can protect your identity:
- Place a freeze on your credit report. If your data has ever been compromised in a data breach, this is an especially good idea. It is now free, but keep in mind that if you need to thaw your credit, it can take several days.
- Enable alerts on all of your financial accounts and cards. These alerts will let you know if someone has infiltrated your existing accounts and managed to use them.
- Practice good password hygiene. A password can only protect you if it is strong—with at least eight digits and a combination of unguessable letters, numbers and symbols—and only used on one account. It is also a good idea to change your passwords regularly to prevent anyone who discovered old login credentials from accessing your accounts.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll free at 888.400.5530 to speak with one of our advisors or live-chat with an advisor on our website. They will help you create an action plan for your case while directing you on the next steps you need to take.
For on-the-go identity assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.
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