Each month, the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center analyzes the volume of calls that come into its 24-hour toll-free call center to uncover the different types of identity theft that are affecting consumers, and to get a clearer picture of where more awareness and advocacy need to be directed. This snapshot each month gives the organization a better idea of where to focus its efforts, and helps map the trends in this kind of crime.
For the third month in a row, government ID theft was the highest reported call to the ITRC. While government ID theft encompasses several different subsets of crime, one of the chief complaints from consumers who’ve been victims of government ID theft—especially at this time of year when citizens’ attention shifts to their tax returns—is tax refund fraud. This occurs when you attempt to submit your tax return and the IRS informs you that someone has basically beaten you to it. The thief files a faulty tax return under your identity and collects a hefty refund, one that not only cancels out your legitimate return, but also contained blatantly untrue information about how much money you earned and how much of a refund you were due. Most consumers who are victims of tax refund fraud don’t even find out that someone else has filed a return under their names until they attempt to submit their own legitimate returns.
In March, the total number of calls to the ITRC about government ID theft was 225, or 45.1% of the total call volume. That percentage has been steadily increasing over the course of the first three months of the year—from 26.9% in January to 41.9% in February—which is to be expected as more and more consumers submit their tax returns and wait to have them rejected by the IRS as being duplicates.
Financial identity theft is still a huge problem in 2015, although it has steadily decreased each month as the correlating number of government ID theft calls rose. Medical identity theft, in which someone uses your information to receive medical care, prescriptions, or other related services, has also decreased each month.
It’s interesting that the other types of ID theft that the ITRC tracks all had up-and-down reporting percentages for January, February, and March. Criminal identity theft was at 8.7%, 6.3%, then 7.4%; child identity theft reports were at 6.2%, 7.5%, and 5.4%; and internet takeover reports came in at 12.2%, 10.2%, and 11.4%.
If you or someone you know is experiencing identity theft and needs assistance, call 888.400.5530 for 24/7 help free of charge.