Breakthroughs in technology and the globalization of commerce have provided today's con artists a new arsenal of weapons to defraud consumers. Personal data, such as social security numbers or bank account and credit card numbers, can be used by criminals to personally profit at a victim's expense or even commit a crime under the victim's name.
It's been estimated that 17.6 million Americans, or seven percent of the population age 16 or older, are victims of identity theft annually. Among these victims, existing bank or credit card accounts are the most common types of misused information.
Scammers will often pretend to be someone trustworthy, like a government official, family member, or charity in their efforts to defraud others. Technology has opened up new avenues for them to do so. For example, it can be easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number victims see aren't always real.
Research has shown that victims of fraud are often victimized by complete strangers. In 2015, more than 60 percent of offenders were strangers to their victims.
If you are a victim of fraud, see the Report Fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice website for links to online forms and phone numbers that can be used to report specific types of fraud.
Additionally, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives and refers complaints regarding the rapidly expanding area of cybercrime. For law enforcement and regulatory agencies, IC3 is the central clearinghouse for complaints on internet related crimes, including those that relate to matters of fraud. And for victims, the site provides a convenient, easily accessible, online reporting mechanism to alert law enforcement of suspected fraudulent activities.
To help improve and expand services to victims, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) created the ID Theft Toolkit for victim advocates, attorneys, law enforcement, and others involved in assisting those impacted by fraud. Also, the OVC-funded Identity Theft Victims Assistance Network is expanding the capacity and outreach of victim services programs nationwide to better address the rights and needs of victims through a collaborative network of state and regional coalitions.
To learn more, select a page from the "Fraud Awareness" box for information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies.