WASHINGTON (WWLP) – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced February 1-5 as Identity Theft Awareness Week.
In 2020, the FTC received about 1.4 million reports of identity theft, double the number from 2019. This year identity thieves targeted government funds slated to help people hard hit financially by the pandemic.
2020’s biggest surge in identity theft reports to the FTC related to the nationwide rise in unemployment claims. After the government expanded unemployment benefits to people left jobless by the pandemic, cybercriminals filed unemployment claims using other people’s personal information. In 2020, the FTC had 394,280 reports about government benefits fraud — overwhelmingly about identity theft involving unemployment benefits, compared to 12,900 reports in 2019.
Other government programs impacted by identity theft were when criminals used a person’s business or personal information to get money from government-sponsored small business loan programs and an individual’s federal stimulus payments from the IRS by reporting it as tax identity theft.
As part of Identity Theft Awareness Week, the FTC and its partners will offer a series of free events to help educate the public about identity theft and prevention. Among them, a webinar with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), and a Facebook Live event where experts from the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the FTC will take your questions.