Cybersafetyconnections September 5, 2022, vol # 83 

  •  According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), identity theft-related fraud/crime increased to 36% in 2021 from 2020.  
  • The pandemic was responsible for the spike in identity theft scams and the most common identity theft crime is that of government benefits like unemployment benefits and social media.  
  • Discovery of identity theft crime due to tax season and social media scams.  
  • Ways to protect against identity theft.  

Identity Theft Resource Center   

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The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported an increase of about 36% in identity theft scams as it relates to those involving government benefits and social media. ITRC reported about 15,000 identity theft and attempted scams in 2021 up from 11,000 in 2020. Since 2015 there has been an increase of 45%  

This trend is similar to that reported by the Federal Trade Commission with 5.9 million consumers filing the report of scams in 2021 which saw a jump of 21% compared to 2020. Of the 5.9 million complaints, Identity theft complaints came to about 1.4 million.  

Pandemic Related Scams  

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FTC reported that due to the Covid-19 pandemic consumers have lost about $886 million through online shopping and other forms of scams as of August 30th. Identity theft related to government unemployment benefits increased as criminals used stolen information to file for unemployment benefits during the pandemic costing close to $163 billion in losses.  

 The discovery  

Unemployment benefits  

Because unemployment benefits are taxable, the victims of identity theft discover fraud during the tax season. Which is some good reason to file taxes. Taxpayers have to then make efforts to sort this out with IRS and also prevent damage to their credit and other accounts being opened in their name.  

Social Media Scams  

The scam involving social media increased in 2021 to 1,044 % from 2020 as reported by ITRC. This scam involved an account takeover of the victim’s social media account. After the account takeover, the criminals then use the stolen social media account to trick followers into providing personal information through avenues like soliciting donations.  

Protection against Identity theft  

Here are tips to protect against Identity theft according to Eva Velasquez, chief executive of the ITRC.  

  • Verify with the source  
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When you get an urgent text message, email, or message on social media requesting personal information like social security number or financial information, and you did not do any business with the entity requesting the information go directly to the said entity’s website or call to confirm.  

  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)  
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It has been restated severally that using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) prevents cybercriminals from doing further damage like gaining access to accounts after stealing personal information. This is because when a user/consumer enables multi-factor authentication like 2 factor verification, a text message with a code is sent to their phone to verify their identity. This code should not be shared with anyone besides the authorized institution to avoid compromising their account any further.  

  • Don’t use simple Passwords  
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The rule is to prevent identity theft and scams through the use of complex passwords that is hard to figure out. As simple as this may sound lots of people still use 12345, reuse passwords, or share passwords. The use of a password manager is encouraged or write your password on paper and keep it safe.  

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