The Identity Theft Resource Center is a non-profit organization that provides free assistance to victims of identity theft. As part of its mission to provide data to law enforcement officials and legislative policymakers, calls to the 24/7 toll-free call center are categorized by the type of identity theft complaint involved.
This creates a clearer picture for industry experts as to what types of identity theft are the most prevalent, and which ones are gaining ground. It’s very typical that the highest volume of victim complaints involves financial identity theft.
For July 2015, the last month for which the ITRC compiled data, financial identity theft accounted for exactly half of all calls to the center at 239 separate reports. Government identity theft, which can include benefits fraud or tax refund fraud, has held the second place position all year long; its peak months were February, March, and April, which should come as no surprise since those are the highest volume months for filing tax returns. May still saw a high number of government identity theft reports (30.6% of all calls) as more and more individuals were informed their tax returns had already been filed by someone else following their legitimate submissions in April.
The third most commonly reported issue is one people may not be aware of as identity theft, and that’s what’s known as internet takeover. This occurs when someone—whether a person close to you or a stranger, like a hacker—gains access to one or more of your online accounts and changes the password to lock you out. From there, it becomes a simple matter to use your email, your social media accounts, your online banking, and more. In July, 20.7% of the calls for assistance involved internet takeover, the highest volume of calls for that type of ID theft all year.
Three other forms of identity theft—medical, criminal, and child—rounded out the top complaints to the ITRC. Throughout the first half of the year, the numbers of reports of these types fluctuated, although criminal identity theft was the most common among them almost every month. Criminal identity theft occurs when a thief provides your name and other information to law enforcement at the time of a traffic stop, questioning, arrest, or other similar event, and the consequences can be rather involved for the victim.
One other crucial piece of the identity theft puzzle is based on calls from victims to the ITRC call center, and that’s the annual Aftermath report. This is based on victim responses to a survey sent out by the ITRC, and those responses get compiled to demonstrate the genuine effects of identity theft. The 2015 Aftermath report has already been compiled and will be made available soon.