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The ITRC’s three-year study shows nearly 30 percent of victims have been the victim of a previous identity crime; an all-time high number of victims say they have contemplated suicide

SAN DIEGO, May 26, 2021- The Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization established to support victims of identity crime, has published research that shows nearly 30 percent of people who contact the ITRC are victims of more than one identity crime. The study – the 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report – released today covers the 36 months from 2018-2020 and goes beyond the known financial implications of identity crimes and explores the emotional, physical and psychological impacts experienced by victims.

For the report, 427 identity crime victims who contacted the organization between January 2018 and December 2020 responded to questions about the impact of identity compromises. The survey, which the ITRC has conducted since 2003, discovered that many of the respondents experienced impacts that resulted in definable emotional impacts, physical consequences and lost opportunities. For example, the report shows the highest level of victims who say they have considered suicide – 10 percent – in the 18-year history of the Consumer Aftermath Report.

The ITRC study includes a special focus on victims of pandemic-related identity fraud, including:

  • Thirty-three (33) percent who did not have enough money to buy food or pay for utilities.
  • Forty (40) percent who were unable to pay their routine bills.
  • Fourteen (14) percent who were evicted for non-payment of rent or mortgage.
  • Fifty-four (54) percent who said they felt violated as a result of their identity being misused

Download the ITRC’s 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report

“The 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report shows that the effects of identity theft, particularly during COVID-19, are far-reaching and accelerating,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Even pre-pandemic, for roughly 30 percent of these individuals, this is the second identity crime committed against them. Generally, these victims cannot pay their rent or mortgage, put food on the table, gas in their cars or afford to pay for internet access or childcare needed to look for new employment. In the report, you see the range of emotions – anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness – in their own words. It is crucial we share these findings so others can better understand the ramifications of identity crimes, as well as help force change to better support these victims.”

“While we have all adjusted to masks and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, for victims of identity fraud, the pandemic has created an entirely new set of risks,” said John Breyault, National Consumers League Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud and an ITRC Board Member. “It might be tempting to focus only on the considerable harm that identity fraud does to consumers. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the costs to businesses due to lost productivity and lower morale as employees manage their recovery and to taxpayers as fraudsters raid unemployment insurance funds.”

Another critical finding discovered in the 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report is pre-pandemic, identity crime victims struggled with the financial, emotional and physical impacts of having their identities misused. Eighty-three (83) percent of victims could not rent an apartment or find housing and 67 percent incurred debt to meet financial obligations. Also, 84 percent reported being anxious or worried and 76 percent feeling violated.

“The risk of having one’s identity stolen and used to perpetuate fraud may be the least studied, most common, criminal experience that individuals can encounter,” said Brandn Green, Research Scientist at Development Services Group. “The work done by the ITRC in their report to quantify and demonstrate the experiences of victims is invaluable.”

Consumers and victims can receive free support and guidance from a knowledgeable live advisor by calling 888.400.5530 or visiting www.idtheftcenter.org to live-chat. 

About the Identity Theft Resource Center   

Founded in 1999, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a nonprofit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, business and government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. Through public and private support, the ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance and consumer education through its website live-chat idtheftcenter.org, toll-free phone number 888.400.5530 and ID Theft Help app. The ITRC also equips consumers and businesses with information about recent data breaches through its data breach tracking tool, notified.    

Media Contact  

Identity Theft Resource Center  
Alex Achten  
Earned & Owned Media Specialist  
888.400.5530 Ext. 3611  
media@idtheftcenter.org   

The IDSA shares with the ITRC in the newest Fraudian Slip podcast exploring identity management & the future of identity

  • This week, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) celebrated Identity Management Day, hosted by the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA). The day raised awareness on the importance of identity management, securing digital identities and sharing best practices to help organizations and consumers.
  • The ITRC sat down with the IDSA to discuss how identity management has changed, the future of identity, how identity crimes are changing and much more.
  • To learn more, listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip
  • You can also learn more about the identity-related crimes discussed in the podcast and how to protect yourself from identity fraud and compromises by visiting the ITRC’s website.
  • If you think you are the victim of an identity crime or your identity has been compromised, you can call us, chat live online, send an email or leave a voice mail for an expert advisor to get advice on how to respond. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Below is a transcript of our podcast with special guest Julie Smith, Executive Director of the Identity Defined Security Alliance

Welcome to The Fraudian Slip, the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) podcast, where we talk about all-things identity compromise, crime and fraud that impact people and businesses. 

This month, April, we’re going to talk about one of the hottest topics in the world of cybersecurity, privacy and identity. Namely, the shift from what we think of as traditional identity theft to what is increasingly more common today – identity-based fraud.

As more organizations analyze their 2020 data and information from the first three months of 2021, there is a common theme. Cybercriminals are less interested in mass attacks seeking to scoop up as much information as possible about consumers. Instead, data thieves are focusing on attacking organizations where they can hold data for ransom, or where an attack against a single company can yield information from all the customers who rely on the breached business.

At the core of many of these attacks are identity credentials, little pieces of information that once upon a time was pretty much limited to your driver’s license, Social Security number and occasionally your mother’s maiden name. Today, identity credentials are everything from your login and password, which is more valuable than your credit card information to a cybercriminal, to the location where you use your smartphone.

The complexity of identity today makes it simultaneously more difficult to protect your identity while also making it easier to prove you are who you say you are.

This week we celebrated Identity Management Day to raise awareness of the importance of identity management, securing digital identities and sharing best practices to help organizations and consumers. Be Identity Smart. 

Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) hosted the day.

We talked with Executive Director of IDSA Julie Smith about the following:

  • The IDSA, its members, and issues
  • How identity management has changed
  • A businesses role in managing and protecting consumer identities; the most important actions to take
  • The future of identity

We also talked with ITRC CEO Eva Velasquez about the following: 

  • How identity crimes are changing
  • Consumer self-management and protection; the most important actions to take
  • The future of identity

For answers to all of these questions, listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip Podcast

Contact the ITRC or IDSA

You can learn more about data privacy, cybersecurity, the future of identity and other identity-related issues by visiting the ITRC’s website www.idtheftcenter.org. If you want to learn more about the IDSA and its work, you can visit www.idsalliance.org.

If you have questions about how to protect your personal information, or if you believe you have been the victim of an identity crime or compromise, talk to one of our expert advisers on the phone (888.400.5530), by live-chat or by email during normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Be sure and join us next week for our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast and next month for another episode of The Fraudian Slip.

  • In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly 100,000 business or personal loan fraud reports, many of them related to Small Business Administration (SBA) loan identity fraud.
  • That’s more than double the number of loan fraud reports from a year earlier. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has also seen a spike in SBA loan identity crime reports since the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Identity thieves apply for SBA loans (primarily Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans) using stolen Social Security numbers and business Employer Identification numbers (EINs).
  • Scammers are also targeting consumers through phishing schemes in an attempt to steal their Social Security Numbers and other personal information needed to commit SBA loan identity fraud.
  • If anyone believes they are the victim of an SBA loan identity crime or would like to learn how to protect themselves from becoming a victim, they can contact the ITRC to speak with an advisor toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Small Business Administration (SBA) loan identity fraud spiked in 2020 due to COVID-19, and it continues to be a growing issue in 2021. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says in 2019, they received 43,920 reports of fraud involving business or personal loans; the number more than doubled in 2020 as the FTC had 99,650 reports. The FTC acknowledges that not all of the reports are related to SBA loan identity fraud, but also notes many of them are.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a spike in calls and live-chats around SBA loan-related identity theft. The contacts continue today as contact center advisors work to help victims. Here is a testimonial from one victim who turned to the ITRC regarding their SBA loan identity crime case:

“I want to thank you for all your suggestions. You are the third (organization) I have contacted and by far the most helpful. I received a form from the Small Business Administration, and after returning it with the police report and the Identity Theft Report, I was informed that my debt with them would be canceled. It is such a huge weight off me. I did everything you suggested, and our credit is frozen with all the CRA’s. Thank you again.”

There are different forms of SBA loan-related identity theft of which  businesses and consumers should be aware:

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs)

Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) loans, loans for businesses that suffer substantial economic injury located within a disaster area, have always been available through the SBA. However, they have been expanded as part of the CARES Act to provide relief to businesses experiencing financial loss due to COVID-19. Identity fraud from an EIDL loan occurs when a threat actor applies for an EIDL loan using either a consumer’s Social Security Number (SSN) or a business’s Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Paycheck Protection Program Loans (PPPs)

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were designed to help businesses maintain their payroll and keep their workforce during COVID-19, and they are available through a lender. Identity fraud from a PPP loan occurs when an identity thief applies for a PPP loan using a stolen SSN, a business EIN or other stolen personal information needed to obtain a loan.

What to do if You Are a Victim of SBA Loan Identity Fraud

If a consumer or a business is the victim of an SBA loan identity crime (whether it’s from either an EIDL or PPP loan), they should take the following steps:

  1. Go back to the source of the loan to notify them of the identity fraud. If the identity fraud is from an EIDL loan, the victim should contact the SBA. If the fraud involves a PPP loan, the affected party should contact the lender that issued the loan. See below for more information on what the SBA requires people to submit, where to submit it, and details on their process.
  2. File an Identity Theft Report with the FTC at www.IdentityTheft.gov. An Identity Theft Report is one of the required documents by the SBA to cancel the loan debt as quickly as possible. Other documents needed include photo identification issued by a federal or state agency and a completed and signed Declaration of Identity Theft. For more information on the steps required by the SBA, click here.
  3. Place a credit freeze to lock credit files until they are needed.A credit freeze is the most effective way to ensure new loans or accounts are not opened.
  4. A less effective option is to place a fraud alert on credit files to alert potential creditors to take extra precautions before extending credit.
  5. Verify with the Secretary of State’s Office or another government agency where the business is registered to ensure the company’s ownership and registration status have not been changed.

Contact the ITRC

Anyone who believes they are a victim of SBA loan identity fraud should contact the ITRC for more information. People can speak to an advisor by phone (888.400.5530) or by live-chat to develop a resolution plan. Anyone who wants to document their steps can use the ITRC’s ID Theft Help app’s case log feature. Consumers who want to learn more can also check out our latest education resources at www.idtheftcenter.org.