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Identity Theft Is Out And Identity Fraud Is In; The Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2022 Predictions Indicate Major Shifts

The Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2022 predictions show a shift from identity theft to identity fraud as cybercriminals continue to refine who they target, what information they steal and what they do with it

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization established to support victims of identity crimes and compromises, has released its 2022 predictions.

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“While we can never predict what will happen in the future, some of the data we see gives us a good glimpse into what’s ahead,” said Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “In 2021, we saw threat actors become more targeted and strategic. We saw them strike with social engineering scams like Google Voice and Instagram account takeovers, using psychological tactics instead of technical expertise to manipulate people’s behavior. We also tracked a record number of data breaches and a steady flow of new victims of unemployment benefits identity fraud long after the enhanced benefits ended.”

“All of these trends point towards increases in identity fraud that will change consumer behaviors, revictimization rates and pandemic-related identity crimes for years to come. We expect to see these types of cyberattacks and who they target continue to evolve as they did in 2021. Also, look for cybercriminals to take advantage of the shift to alternative digital payment methods such as payment apps, digital wallets and peer-to-peer services.”

There are six trends in the ITRC’s 2022 predictions that the ITRC expects to see in the next calendar year:

  1. The shift from identity theft to identity fraud – the accumulation of personally identifiable information (PII) to the misuse of PII – will accelerate in 2022.
  • The number of data breaches has reached an all-time high in 2021. Yet, the number of individuals impacted has dropped as identity criminals focus more on attacking businesses using consumer information, especially credentials.
  • This means that consumer education and data protections will need to evolve.
  1. Identity fraud will drive behavior change as consumers withdraw from certain interactions, transactions and communication channels.
  • The continued improvement in ease and quality of phishing attacks will force some consumers to rethink online purchases and change communication habits for fear of falling prey to perfectly spoofed emails, websites or text messages.
  • Some people are likely to disengage entirely from emails because they believe the risk is too great. That could lead to a return of “old school” communications like telephone and postal mail.

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  1. The ripple effects of pandemic-related fraud will continue into 2024.
  • The ITRC believes that other forms of benefit fraud will emerge in 2022. Last year, the ITRC predicted these types of crimes would continue in 2021. Given the amount of government benefits identity fraud (the ITRC received more reports in 2021 than 2020), it will take years to resolve all of the issues.
  • Due to the continuing nature of unemployment benefit identity fraud, the ITRC expects this fraud to be a permanent addition to the risk landscape.
  1. Malware has plateaued as a root cause of data breaches, making way for newer attacks to become the root cause of data breaches and identity crimes.
  • Ransomware may catch up or surpass phishing-related breaches as the number one cause of data breaches.
  • Supply chain attacks will pass malware as the third most common root cause of data breaches.
  • How consumers protect themselves will evolve due to the re-ordering of the threat landscape that de-emphasizes technology vulnerabilities and focuses more on behaviors.
  1. Revictimization rates will continue to increase, and a new “chain of victimization” will emerge.
  • In 2021, the ITRC saw revictimization rates continue to trend up (2021 Consumer Aftermath Report) as 29 percent of respondents reported being repeat victims.
  • Single incidents that target multiple individuals or organizations will impact greater numbers of victims across communities and geographic areas.
  • Social media account takeover, in particular, will leverage the followers and individual networks to create new chains of victims.
  • Consumer behaviors will play a bigger role than in previous years in creating risk and protecting against attacks.
  1. Cybercriminals will shift their focus as consumers turn to toward alternative, digital payment forms as the payment method of choice.
  • Criminals will drive victims to use payment apps, digital wallets and peer-to-peer services as part of scams, surpassing debit and gift cards.
  • As cryptocurrency transactions become more mainstream, cybercriminals will focus on finding ways to scam consumers as crypto use is likely to surpass traditional bank transfers and wire transfers in the near future.


“Regardless of whether or not our 2022 predictions come true, the ITRC will continue in its mission to assist identity crime victims,” Velasquez said. “For more than 20 years, we have fought for and helped those impacted by the misuse of their identity. That will continue to be our focus in 2022.”

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