Skip to main content

Among the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, add a higher risk of identity theft to the mix. In the past year, we had about 1.4 million reports of identity theft, double the number from 2019. Repeatedly, identity thieves targeted government funds earmarked to help individuals and small businesses hard hit financially by the pandemic. Find out about identity theft in the age of COVID-19. Join us for Identity Theft Awareness Week, February 1-5Identity Theft Awareness Week logo

The FTC and its partners will co-host a series of free events. A webinar with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) will focus on identity theft during the pandemic. Experts from the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the FTC will take your questions during a Facebook Live event. And, the head of the FTC’s Identity Theft Program will join leaders of the ITRC on The Fraudian Slip podcast to talk about identity theft trends and the impact of COVID-19. For a complete listing of events, visit

In 2020, the biggest surge in identity theft reports to the FTC related to the dramatic and nationwide dip in employment. After the government expanded unemployment benefits to people left jobless by the pandemic, cybercriminals filed unemployment claims using the personal information of other people. In 2020, we received 394,280 reports about government benefits fraud — overwhelmingly about identity theft involving unemployment insurance benefits — compared with 12,900 reports in 2019.

People also reported identity theft in which criminals used their business or personal information to get money from government-sponsored loan programs designed to help small businesses weather the pandemic. People reported they learned about the fraud when they got notices telling them it was time to repay loans they never applied for. Last year, we received 99,650 reports of fraud involving business or personal loans, compared with 43,920 reports in 2019, before the pandemic began. While not all of these new reports can be attributed to the government relief effort, they are a sizeable share of the increase.

People told us about identity theft involving their federal stimulus payments from the IRS by reporting it as tax identity theft. In 2020, reports to the FTC of tax identity theft rose to 89,390, from 27,450 reports in 2019. While many of the reports concerned other types of tax identity theft, the report numbers began to swell when distribution of the stimulus payments began.

Later this month, we’ll publish our Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, with a breakdown of all the identity theft, fraud, and other reports the FTC received in 2020. We’ll have more information for you then. In the meantime, we hope you’ll join us for Identity Theft Awareness Week to learn more about identity theft during the COVID-19 emergency.

For nuts-and-bolts tips on keeping your business’s information secure, check out Cybersecurity for Small Business. And, review our guidance, Businesses Must Provide Victims and Law Enforcement with Transaction Records Relating to Identity Theft, to know your compliance responsibilities — and how to help — if someone working to reclaim their good name after identity theft asks for transaction records from you.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.