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One in 10 U.S. Adults Say They Have Been Victims of Identity Theft Since the COVID-19 Pandemic Began

Survey from TransUnion’s public sector business finds expectations are high for government agencies to provide secure yet convenient experiences

More than eight in 10 U.S. adults (83%) are concerned about having their identity stolen and the level of distress of this crime occurring has increased for nearly one-third (32%) of Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic began. More alarmingly, since the onset of the pandemic, 10% of U.S. adults report being a victim of identity theft. The findings are part of a new survey conducted by the public sector business of TransUnion (NYSE: TRU) released today during the FedID 2020 virtual conference.

The survey of 2,108 U.S. adults on August 11, 2020, also observed types of fraud that are impacting both government agencies and consumers. Unemployment benefits and tax return fraud, among others, are challenging for government agencies because consumers have high expectations concerning the security of their accounts.

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.  

“As federal and state government agencies support millions of consumers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s apparent that fraudsters are gaining access to accounts and funds that are meant to help individuals in need,” said Jonathan McDonald, executive vice president of TransUnion’s public sector business unit. “During these difficult times, it’s critical for government agencies to provide secure, friction-right experiences to ensure citizens are equipped to safely access their accounts or much-needed benefits.”

Government fraud impacting youngest generations most

Besides the respondents who said they were a victim of identity theft, 11% said they were not 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 an ID theft victim. Gen Z also reported the highest propensity of government accounts being taken over by someone else (15%) compared to 7% for all generations.

While 7% of 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 said they’ve been a victim of unemployment benefits fraud followed by Millennials (born 1980 to 1994) at 8%. The vast majority of respondents who have been a victim of unemployment benefits fraud have not resolved the problem.

Furthermore, a small percentage of respondents have either had their 2019 tax return fraudulently filed (7%) or had their 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.

“Our findings make it abundantly clear that the youngest adults are being targeted most by fraudsters. This is also one of the most vulnerable populations with many just beginning their careers. At the same time, these individuals also are tech savvy with the most substantive online profiles, and that’s why it’s critical for government agencies to provide secure, yet convenient opportunities for this population to confirm their identity accurately,” concluded McDonald.

TransUnion’s public sector business supports federal, state and local agencies by providing mission-critical solutions to improve citizen safety, manage compliance and boost services for constituents. TransUnion’s fraud solutions unite both consumer and device identities to detect threats across markets, fusing traditional data science with machine learning to provide businesses and government agencies with unique insights about consumer transactions.

To access more information about the public sector survey, please click here.

About TransUnion (NYSE: TRU)

TransUnion is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in the modern economy. We do this by providing a comprehensive picture of each person so they can be reliably and safely represented in the marketplace. As a result, businesses and consumers can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good.®

A leading presence in more than 30 countries across five continents, TransUnion provides solutions that help create economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for hundreds of millions of people.