The Identity Theft Resource Center is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, and the funding it receives from grants, government support, and contributions from individuals and businesses helps the organization maintain a 24-hour a day, seven day a week toll-free call center. This call center means there is someone standing by to offer information and support whenever identity thieves strike.
As part of its mission to provide the most up-to-date information for education and awareness of identity theft, the ITRC tracks what types of ID theft reports are made to its offices. This information is then compared month over month and year over year in order to get a clearer picture of how identity theft impacts consumers.
For the month of February 2015, there were some surprising changes in the numbers of reports across the various types of ID theft. First of all, financial identity theft reports were actually significantly lower than the calls in January. As the most common call to the center or made through referrals to the ITRC from other agencies, financial identity theft accounted for 64.4% of the consumer complaints in January, but only slightly more than 48% of the calls in February.
But while financial identity theft reports may have decreased, the real clincher is in government identity theft. This type of crime can be anything from someone using your data to gain employment, to file for disability benefits, or one of the most common forms, to file a tax return under your Social Security number and steal your refund. With the sharp increase of nearly double the percentage of calls from January to February, it’s not hard to assume what happened: tax refund fraud. The victims of this type of crime usually only find out they’ve been cheated after they attempt to file their legitimate tax refunds, which often occurs in the first two months of the calendar year.
Despite a slightly higher reporting incidence of child identity theft from January to February, two other types—criminal identity theft and internet takeover—reported notable decreases. Criminal identity theft, which occurs when someone uses your identity to report to law enforcement at the time of a violation or crime, is particularly upsetting to victims as a crime other than the identity theft has been committed, and their good names have become attached to it. Internet takeover occurs when someone hacks into your online accounts and changes your passwords, locking you out while they wreak havoc with your online and social media presence.
However identity theft affects victims, one thing is for certain. The ITRC will continue to monitor the types of criminal activities that come in to the call center in order to help citizens, advocacy groups, and policymakers prepare for and prevent the crime from taking place.