Over the past year, people in the US have turned to Google with questions about identity theft 336,500,159 times - here’s what they’ve been searching for.
September 1st, 2022
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Identity theft is when a criminal steals information in order to use your identity and this crime becomes identity fraud when used for financial gain. A huge 91% of identity fraud cases reported in 2021 took place online* meaning that businesses and anyone who uses the internet need to learn more to protect themselves against identity theft. Our recent identity fraud report revealed that identity fraud made up 52% of all fraudulent activity in Q1 2022.
Here at Veriff we are passionate about making the online world safer and have a number of products such as biometric authentication to make things more secure for consumers online. We also wanted to get a better understanding of where and what we are Googling the most when it comes to identity theft so we analyzed Google search data between May 2021 and April 2022 to give insight into what people are worried about online. We then spoke with an online identity expert to reveal how we can protect ourselves against these things.
We can see that the US is Googling phishing (which is where emails are sent pretending to be from a business in order to encourage people to reveal personal information) and social media hacking far more than online banking hacking - despite the potential financial risk associated with online banking.
There are lots of things we do online that criminals can take advantage of and when it comes to stealing identities there are a few places which have a lot of information criminals can use: our email accounts, social media and online banking.
Despite the financial dangers associated with online banking hacking - when we look at what people are Googling the most around identity theft we can see that people appear to be much more interested in learning more about email hacking and social media hacking. One reason for this could be that there are so many different types of social media, from Twitter to Instagram which encourage us to share more personal information online than ever before. It’s interesting to see the people in the US more worried about our TikTok and Snapchat being hacked over our bank accounts.
Google search data shows that the most commonly searched term is ‘phishing’ with 2,235,000 searches over the past year. Phishing is where emails are sent pretending to be from reputable companies in order to encourage people to reveal personal information including passwords, addresses and credit card numbers. It can be difficult to spot a phishing email and they are often disguised very well and can seem legitimate. It’s unlikely a real email would ever ask you to enter your user name, password or banking information - if you’re concerned, reach out to the business through another channel to verify the email. Businesses can use Veriff’s ID verification software to confirm who people are within seconds, thanks to AI-powered ID Verification software which looks at over 10,000 IDs, from over 190 countries, across 45 different languages.
The second most commonly searched term is ‘Facebook hacked’ which received 483,600 searches, followed by ‘Instagram hacked’ at 401,000 searches, ‘Snapchat hacked’ (209,700) and ‘WhatsApp hacked’ (57,100).
We share more information than ever on social media and our accounts often have a large network of friends and family who can also become targets of criminals who gain access to our accounts - it’s crucial to keep your account as safe as possible.
Looking at the US as a whole we can see that there are incredibly high search volumes for identity theft queries in every state, with the majority of the biggest searchers concentrated in the Northeast states.
Vermont comes in the top with 10,320 searches for identity theft queries for every 10,000 people living there. According to a recent study by SafeWise, 78% of Vermonters feel safe in their state - beating the national average by 42%. In second place is the District of Columbia (10.237/10,000), which saw a 28% increase in crime between 2021 and 2022, so it’s not surprising that residents are searching more for ways to protect themselves. In third place is Colorado (10,166/10,000), followed by New Jersey (10,162/10,000) and New York (10,161/10,000).
The states which have Googled identity theft the least are South Dakota and Mississippi both coming in at 10,065 searches per 10,000 people. In the SafeWise study, it was reported that South Dakota’s level of concern around crime was 30% lower than the rest of the country, despite having a relatively high crime rate - which could explain why there is little search interest in these terms. Mississippi has the third highest murder rate in the US so residents may be more concerned with violent crime compared to internet crime.
We wanted to get more information about the best ways to protect ourselves online, so we spoke to James Walker, CEO of Rightly, an independent consumer data action service committed to championing consumer rights and helping people police, control and manage the personal data held by organizations and he offered some tips on the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft online:
Veriff is a global online identity verification company that enables organisations to build trust with their customers through intelligent, accurate, and automated online identity verification. Our technology helps to match a person with their government-issued ID. Knowing the identity of your customers and users helps to protect users and children in the metaverse.
We curated a seed list of the most common identity theft scams and queries by looking at a number of news articles and by using Google Trends Explore and ahrefs keywords explorer.
Next, we found the search volume for each of these scams using Google Keyword Planner in the US and we looked at which states were Googling identity theft queries the most, between May 2021 and April 2022.
We then spoke to an online safety expert to reveal simple changes we can make to protect ourselves from some of these scams.
EDD in banking involves gathering information in order to verify the identity of customers and calculate the exact level of money laundering risk each customer poses. During the EDD process, the customer is asked for a much greater amount of information than they are during the CDD process, as this information can be used to mitigate the risks involved.
When carrying out due diligence, a financial institution must determine whether they should perform customer due diligence (CDD) or enhanced due diligence (EDD). This is because FATF guidance suggests that companies should adopt a risk-based approach to due diligence that reflects the specific level of risk that each individual customer presents.
Synthetic fraud is incredibly dangerous and is a major problem facing the financial sector. Unlike third-party fraud, where an entire identity is stolen and used to defraud enterprises and victims, synthetic fraud frequently has no specific consumer victim.