Identity theft complaints grew by one-third during 2012 and again it was the number one issue in the United States. This rate of increase is almost three times the growth rate from 2010-2011 (12%).
Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Top 10 Consumer Complaints Report for 2012, released today.
The FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book – an online database of consumer complaints for law enforcement – recorded over two million complaints from consumers during 2012, an increase of 8.8 percent. The increase was largely driven by the jump in identity theft complaints, up 54 percent anually to 369,132. The 2012 Data Book divides complaints into three basic categories – fraud(52%), identity theft(18%) and other – and examined the changes over time.
Tax and wage fraud was the main goal of the stolen personal data. Out of all identity theft complaints, 43.4% fell into this single category – an increase of nearly twenty percentage points from 2010. Tax fraud is primarily driven by criminal networks that steal PII (personally identifiable information) such as social security numbers and use them to electronically file for income tax refunds.
The sharp growth in tax and wage fraud far outstripped other uses for stolen PII. Complaints about credit card fraud amounted to 13.4% with phone and utility fraud at 9.7%.
The connection between stolen PII and tax and wage fraud was even higher for members of the armed services. Over a third of all complaints filed by servicemen, 37%, were for identity theft. Of these, 49% said the data was misused for tax and wage fraud.
Geography does matter when it comes to identity theft. Florida was the clear leader for identity theft, with 85% more complaints per inhabitant than any other state. It was followed by Georgia, California, Michigan, and New York.
The age distribution of identity theft victims is shifting, with an increase among older victims. The percentage of complaints from a 50+ crowd increased by six percentage points to 36%. On the other hand, the 29 and under group dipped four percentage points to 27%. That said, the FTC has reported in prior years that children and students are key target groups for identity thieves because they have limited credit or employment histories and thus present a clean slate for criminal activity.
Consumers can limit their vulnerability to identity theft by installing and using Hotspot Shield VPN, particularly while they are using public WiFi networks. Hotspotshield also detects and blocks phishing sites which can be used to steal important information, as well as other types of malware which can get downloaded to your computer or mobile device and be used to grab sensitive data. In addition, Hotspot Shield protects consumers while they are using public WiFi by encrypting all data transmissions. This protects your valuable information from hackers and snoops who can easily intercept your transmission if it is not secured.
Learn more about the dangers of Malware by visiting, http://www.hotspotshield.com/malware-protection
For more information on the consumer fraud report visit: http://www.ftc.gov/sentinel/reports/sentinel-annual-reports/sentinel-cy2012.pdf
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