State ranks third in identity theft; incidents have doubled in the past five years

Coronavirus-related scams have proliferated in recent weeks.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, some businesses have already been reprimanded for misleading claims around Coronavirus treatments and cures. But not all scams are related to false advertising. Other common scams include fraudulent online vendors claiming to sell in-demand goods, fake charities soliciting donations, robocalls pushing phony products, and phishing emails designed to trick victims into sharing personal information. One obvious consequence for victims of these scams is losing money. Another major threat is identity theft, which has been on the rise for the past few years.

In 2019, the FTC received 650,572 identity theft reports—about 198 per 100,000 residents. These numbers represent an astonishing 46 percent increase since 2018 and nearly a 100 percent increase over the past five years. Coinciding with the rise in identity theft reports is an increase in data breaches—incidents in which an individual’s name and private or confidential information is exposed.

The Identity Theft Resource Center reported 1,473 data breaches in 2019, more than nine times the number in 2005 when the ITRC first started tracking data breaches. While not all data breaches lead to identity theft, a larger number of data breaches means more Americans have their personal information exposed, increasing the likelihood identity theft will occur.