Google Voice scams led the way in what was a record year for identity-related fraud in 2021, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
The non-profit said it received 14,947 reports from consumers during the year, a 26% increase from 2020 and the most it has ever had to deal with.
Half (50%) of these were scam victims: that is, they shared personally identifiable information (PII) with their attacker. More than half (53%) of this group comprised Google Voice scams, making it the most prevalent fraud type of the year.
Fraudsters typically seek out victims who are selling items online. They will send them a Google verification code and request that the victim shares that code – ostensibly to verify they are a ‘real’ seller.
In reality, if the victim does so, their phone number will be linked to a newly created fraudulent Google Voice account which will be used to scam others.
Elsewhere, the ITRC recorded an 8% increase in “identity misuse” incidents, totalling 4168 in number. Two-fifths (40%) of these were related to financial account misuse, with most of this group linked to new account fraud (64%) and the remainder to account takeover (36%).
Over half (55%) of identity misuse cases were recorded as attempts to open, access or take over government accounts or apply for benefits – no doubt spurred by the prevalence of COVID relief payments in the US.
Elsewhere, the ITRC recorded massive rises in non-financial account takeover (235%) and social media account takeover (1044%).
The non-profit said many of these were social media influencers lured into participation in Bitcoin investment scams, or claims they could increase the chances of their account being verified by Instagram. In both cases, they were asked to provide details which resulted in them being locked out of their account.
ITRC CEO, Eva Velasquez, branded 2021 a record year for identity scams.
“With high water marks for identity fraud, compromises and misuse, it’s important to take protective measures like freezing your credit, using strong 12+ character unique passphrases on all of your accounts and ignoring suspicious messages,” she advised.