Identity theft complaints in New York sharply increased last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly doubling as more people filed for unemployment insurance and shopped online, according to a report released on Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office.
The report found 67,000 complaints were filed statewide last year, an 85% rise from 2019 and four times the total annual amount from a decade ago.
"In the midst of the stresses caused by the pandemic, many New Yorkers also dealt with identity theft last year," DiNapoli said. "Even when there’s no money stolen, resolving the consequences of stolen personal information is complicated and can take months of effort. Often the pain is really felt later, when victims have trouble getting a job, renting an apartment, or getting a loan because their identity was stolen. We should all take common-sense steps to keep personal information confidential, and companies must do more to protect consumers from identity theft."
The report found credit card fraud was the most common type of theft reported to regulators at the Federal Trade Commission last year, with nearly 25,000 people in New York reporting misused information.
More than 3,600 identity theft reports related to the pandemic and COVID-19 were reported as well. Two-thirds of those complaints were related to unemployment benefits or other government programs.
And most of the arrests per 100,000 residents between 2019 and 2020 were in Albany County, DiNapoli said.
It's not clear yet what sort of effect this will have on economic losses. But in 2018, the country as a whole had $15.1 billion in identity theft losses. State officials at the Department of Labor have introduced new controls to limit identity theft by having beneficiaries provide multiple forms of identification.