DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) -- Central Illinoisans: keep close tabs on your wallet.
A new study shows an alarming rise in reports of Identity theft nationwide, and there's a major uptick in Illinois -- one that was stunning to one analyst who performed the study.
"When we looked at the numbers the first time, we were like there was no way this could be right," Nick VinZant, a senior research analyst at Quote Wizard said. "Since the beginning of the pandemic, identity theft reports have skyrocketed -- particularly in Illinois, where we saw a 484 percent increase in identity reports in just the last year. That's the fifth highest increase in the nation."
More than 135,000 Illinoisans reported a case of identity theft in 2020 -- six more times than 209's total of a little more than 23,000 cases.
"Where we saw the largest increase was specifically in government benefits and government document identity theft," VinZant said. "So what criminals were doing was going in, getting people's personal information and then filing unemployment claims or stealing their stimulus payments, that's where you saw that huge increase."
Some Americans are still waiting on their next round of the stimulus check, so the numbers could get higher.
"It's incredibly concerning because they were stolen when people were trying to get benefits directly related to the Pandemic," VinZant said. "These were people that were struggling, that fell on hard times and criminals took these benefits away from people who needed them. These people were affected at the worst possible time."
The study also revealed that Illinois was the 5th highest in the U.S. in money lost due to scams during the pandemic at 93 million dollars.