The Identity Theft Resource Center has many jobs when it comes to identity theft and its related crimes. Besides working with policymakers and members of law enforcement, keeping the public informed about new threats to their data security, and gathering statistical information on identity theft crimes, the ITRC operates a 24-hour toll-free call center to make sure that victims have the support they need when they find out their information has been compromised.
In order to help the industry keep tabs on where and how this crime is being committed, the ITRC keeps up with the types of identity theft that victims call about. The numbers of requests to the call center are tabulated each month to get a clearer picture of how this crime is affecting the public.
In October, there were some telling signs of the ongoing shifts in identity theft. Some were not so surprising, while others were so predictable that it shouldn’t raise eyebrows any longer. Here’s the breakdown of calls for help by percentage:
- Financial Identity Theft – 60.7%
- Identity Theft – 27.4%
- Medical Identity Theft – 5.1%
- Criminal Identity Theft – 8.5%
- Child Identity Theft – 5.7%
- Internet Takeover – 12.9%
Financial identity theft has held the top spot all year long and it’s the type of identity theft that most people think of when they hear about this crime. Interestingly, though, October was only the second time financial identity theft reports were this high, after January of this year when the percentage of financial identity theft calls was 64.5%. What does that tell us? Based solely on speculation about the time of year, January ends two months after the busy Black Friday/Christmas shopping season, so it stands to reason that victims would be calling the ITRC for help after discovering their credit cards had been used fraudulently. October falls two months after the busy back-to-school shopping season, as well as shortly after college students head back to school and leave their older addresses (and often their mail) behind. Without concrete evidence it’s hard to say that those events are indicators of how thieves are using their victims’ financial identities, but there’s also no harm in warning consumers to be extra-vigilant about their identities and their finances in November and August.
Another surprise was in the reports of criminal identity theft, in which a thief poses as you at the time of a traffic violation or arrest; interestingly, this crime followed the same pattern for rising and falling as financial identity theft, with it reaching its peak in January of this year, then dropping sharply only to rise to its second highest peak in October. Whether or not there’s a correlation cannot be determined just from victim phone calls, but it stands to reason that anyone who has access to your identity and is using it during busy retail shopping times may also be using your identity while committing—and being apprehended for—other related crimes at those same times of year.
The final interesting statistic involves child identity theft, a type of related crime that is growing at an alarming rate. By looking back at the numbers of reports throughout the year, child identity theft was at its highest from January through April, then dropped dramatically only to increase again in October to its fourth highest percentage for the year. Again, allowing for a lag time in the actual identity theft and the reports of it, this crime superficially appears to follow a school year-based calendar. There have been numerous reports of school employees fraudulently accessing student information for the purposes of identity theft, and that access would be removed during the summer months for many employees. To see the numbers of reports being highest in January, February, and April and then increase again in October is very interesting, to say the least, and it should make parents exercise some caution when sharing their children’s information with the school system.
All of the call center stats, regardless of the type of identity theft or the variations in the reporting, point to one universal truth: consumers have to remain diligent when it comes to protecting their data and safeguarding it from a thief.