Fraud, Identity Theft Reports Spike in Region, Nation

Article excerpt

Identity thieves in the D.C. area are increasingly using victims personal information to improperly obtain government documents or benefits, according to new data from the Federal Trade Commission.

The total number of fraud, identity theft and other consumer complaints reported to the FTC jumped 34 percent in the District, 29 percent in Maryland and 42 percent in Virginia in 2011 compared with 2010. Those numbers are above the nationwide rise of 24 percent.

In all three local jurisdictions, debt collection scams were the most common mode of fraud, and the most frequent type of identity theft involved government documents or benefits. Nationwide, complaints about document- and benefit-related identity theft have increased 11 percent since 2009, according to the FTC.

Security experts say thats because its simple for criminals to obtain someone elses name and Social Security number, then use that information on unemployment forms, tax returns and other documents.

Its the point of least resistance, said Todd Davis, CEO of the identity-protection company LifeLock. The security has not advanced as fast as some other sectors.

Financial institutions have put more safeguards on consumers personal information, leaving criminals to turn elsewhere, experts said. …