The Covid-19 pandemic drove a massive increase in identity theft claims filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last year, with twice as many claims filed in 2020 than in 2019.
As part of its annual Identity Theft Awareness Week initiative, the FTC released statistics that highlighted a wave of scams targeting government pandemic relief funds. The most common method was unemployment claims, where a criminal uses stolen personal information to steal payments.
“In 2020, we had 394,280 reports about government benefits fraud — overwhelmingly about identity theft involving unemployment benefits,” stated the announcement. “Compare that with 12,900 reports in 2019.”
Government-sponsored small business loan programs were another frequent target, with 99,650 reported incidents of fraudulent business and personal loans filed in 2020, as compared to 43,920 reported in 2019.
Reports of tax identity theft sharply increased as well, especially IRS stimulus payments: the FTC received 89,390 complaints in 2020, compared to 27,450 the year before.
Read the FTC announcement here.