Identity Thefts Surge in 2020, even though stealing credit card numbers was the crime of choice for most hackers out there for years.
Hackers have since gravitated toward grabbing health-related information. The two significant trends in 2020 were the rampant increase in ransomware attacks against companies of all shapes and sizes and hackers’ focus on identity theft.
Both of these crimes saw huge increases in 2020, but the number of identities stolen the previous year reached a mind-boggling record of 1.4 million, which is more than double the number of reports in 2019. While several different factors have fed into this trend, the biggest and most influential one seems to be the ongoing pandemic, which has created a whole raft of opportunities for hackers to exploit.
The government’s Paycheck Protection Program has created a confusing maze that can be hard for some out-of-work people to navigate. The hackers and scammers of the world are only too happy to insert themselves in the process, offering assistance as a ruse to gain personal information.
In a similar vein, with tens of millions of people out of work and state unemployment systems struggling under strain, there have been delays in getting benefits that sometimes span months. Again, this raises legitimate questions that hackers and scammers are only too happy to pretend to answer. They use social engineering techniques and pretend to offer assistance in getting benefits more quickly, only to steal the target’s identity.
Identity Protection PIN
Given this, the IRS has recommended that all taxpayers at least consider taking the time to establish an Identity Protection PIN when filing their taxes this year. This pin is essentially a form of two-factor authentication that will help ensure that if you’re due a refund from the IRS, someone who has stolen your identity won’t file taxes on your behalf and steal it from you.
It’s sound advice, but sadly, this Identity Theft Surge of 2020 won’t be the last threat we’ll need to be mindful of in the months ahead. Stay vigilant out there.