You’ve probably heard of Christmas in July, but you might not know about January in August. Don’t worry, it’s not a real phenomenon, although it’s very surprising from an identity theft standpoint.
Every month, the Identity Theft Resource Center helps victims who reach out through the 24-hour toll-free help line, through its website, and through the ID Theft Help app for iOS and Android. The agency then breaks down the calls into the type of identity theft issue the victims experienced, and keeps up with that data to see what trends affect consumers month over month. This data is critical for helping law enforcement, advocates, and policymakers know what types of this crime are making the biggest impact.
Last month’s percentages for each category of identity theft held a strange correlation: they were nearly identical to the numbers posted in January, with decimal-sized differences for almost every category. Financial identity theft, by far the most common type of complaint every single month, was actually identical to the caller percentage from January.
The one surprise was criminal identity theft, which occurs when someone uses your identity in a criminal act of some kind. It could be anything from a major felony to a speeding ticket, but the fallout can come back on you in a very serious way. Criminal identity theft calls reached their highest percentage for the entire year in August, with 11% of the calls pertaining to this issue.
The breakdown for August’s percentage numbers includes financial identity theft (55.9% of calls), government identity theft (28.5%), medical identity theft (2.7%), child identity theft (4.7%), and internet takeover (9.6%). The eerily similar numbers may not mean anything at all, and are very likely nothing more than a statistical coincidence. However, it does bear a little harmless speculation.
January often feels like a moderate “lull period” before February’s numbers slam the percentages out of the park. February’s numbers change so dramatically because the previous month marks the beginning of tax season. As consumers begin to file their tax returns in January and discover that their tax returns were already filed fraudulently by an identity thief, victim calls fluctuate greatly in February across most of the different types.
In August, we have another major (although unrelated) calendar event for a lot of Americans: summer is over, and school starts back. That means anyone who stole your credit card during your summer vacation has now had time to rack up new charges or open new accounts. In all the back to school preparations and forms, your child’s identity may have been stolen or used fraudulently. Your family’s medical identity may have even been used for school physicals or required vaccinations. If you’re a college student, you may have fallen victim to utilities fraud, student loan or financial aid fraud, or credit card fraud.
The only way to know if August will hit your identity hard is to monitor all of your accounts very carefully. Keep tabs on your bank and credit card accounts in order to spot signs of suspicious activity, and request a free copy of your credit report to look for fraud. If you receive a bill or health insurance statement for medical services, look it over carefully and make sure the patient actually received that care. It’s also a good time to change your online passwords as an additional layer of security, which would help prevent internet takeover and other online crimes.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.