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New Survey Finds Identity Theft Reported by 10% of Consumers Since Start of COVID-19 Pandemic

Stuart Levy, Sr. Director, Public Sector
Blog Post10/01/2020
Business
Ten percent of Consumers Victims of Identity Theft Since Start of Covid-19

Consumers have high expectations for government agencies to protect their identity information
In light of the major economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans since the Great Depression have applied for and received some form of government relief. And with so much uncertainty lingering, it’s not surprising 83% of Americans are concerned about their identity being stolen, and distress levels have increased for nearly one-third (32%) since the emergence of COVID-19.  

More alarmingly, 10% of US adults report being a victim of identity theft since the onset of the pandemic. As anxiety continues, demands on government agencies are high as citizens want both secure and convenient online experiences when accessing their accounts. These findings are part of a new TransUnion Public Sector survey focusing on the impact government agency-related fraud is having on consumers.

Government fraud impacting youngest generations most
In addition to the 10% cited above, another 11% said they weren’t sure if they have or have not been a victim of identity theft. Gen Z (born 1995 or after) topped all generations with almost 16% stating they’ve been a victim. This group also reported the highest propensity of government accounts being taken over by someone else (15%) compared to 7% for all generations.

Victims of Identity Theft or Fraud

While 7% of overall respondents said they’ve been a victim of unemployment benefits fraud in 2020, the youngest generations once again faced the greatest challenges — more than 16% of Gen Z respondents followed by Millennials (born 1980 to 1994) at 8%. Making matters worse, the vast majority of these consumers have not resolved their problem.

Furthermore, a small percentage of respondents have either had their 2019 tax return fraudulently filed (7%) or stimulus check stolen (6%). However, Gen Z once again was an outlier with 13% having tax returns fraudulently filed and 12% having stimulus checks stolen.

Online services are a popular way to access government accounts
Nearly half (49%) of Americans looked to government websites to access services since COVID-19 came on the scene. The experience consumers have when using government sites is decidedly mixed. However, of those using agency websites, 38% more report it being easy to access their accounts online versus those who found it difficult.

Accessing your government accounts during COVID-19

Citizens expect government to do a better job of protecting their online accounts
Government agencies should strive to improve their online service experience and establish trust with constituents. As it stands, when it comes to believing organizations will protect their identities, US adults don’t have high levels of confidence. In fact, 39% of respondents report not trusting government agencies or private sector businesses, with 29% trusting both about the same. Only 20% report trusting government agencies more than private business.  

Given the general lack of trust, 94% of respondents say it’s important to know how government agencies secure their online accounts. While adding more security features is a logical tactic, they shouldn’t disrupt the customer experience. More than 43% of survey respondents said both security and convenience are equally important to them when accessing their government accounts. Approximately 26% said security is more important, and 22% had convenience as being more essential.  

Identity and fraud solutions for public sector agencies
TransUnion’s fraud and identity solutions can help agencies avoid fraud, waste and abuse while effectively delivering smooth constituent services. For more information on how we can help your organization, please reach out to me directly at Stuart.Levy@transunion.com.

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