Each month, the Identity Theft Resource Center tracks the help requests that come into its 24-hour toll-free call center in order to get a better picture of the types of identity theft crimes that continue to impact consumers. This information helps advocates, law enforcement, and policymakers stay on top of the related crimes in order to better serve the public.
Last month, there were some striking changes in the reports to the call center. While Financial Identity Theft—in which someone uses stolen data to open new lines of credit, make purchases, fraudulently use someone’s credit rating, or other similar behavior—is almost always in the top spot, it was at its third highest percentage for the year in September. January typically sees the highest incident reporting of this type of ID theft due to callers receiving bills for purchases made during the busy Black Friday through Christmas shopping season, so it’s plausible that September’s high rate of report came on the heels of August’s back to school and end-of-summer vacation activity.
One of the major surprises was the higher than ever rate of Criminal Identity Theft in September, which more than doubled over its lowest point in the year, June. At 10.3% of all calls coming into the center, it begs the question as to whether there is actually a higher occurrence or if consumers are only becoming more aware of it. Many individuals only discover their identities have been used by a criminal after a bench warrant is issued for their arrest; as these types of warrants are typical of things like unpaid speeding tickets and failure to appear in court over misdemeanors, the otherwise-busy police do not tend to hunt down individuals over this type of issue. Many victims only discover the warrant when they go to apply for a job and the matter comes up in the background check. With the often higher numbers of people seeking employment over the summer (following high school and college graduation), it’s understandable that more victims may come forward around this time of year.
Sadly, one of the other areas of concern in September was the steady rate of Child Identity Theft reports. While this number tends to fluctuate by a percentage point or two throughout the year, there has been very little improvement in the number of reports. That speaks to the need for greater education and awareness, especially on the part of parents and family members, in order to protect children’s identities. As October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and has a special focus this year on keeping families safe and connected, hopefully there will be improvement soon.