Americans of all ages are affected by identity theft every year, and the problem seems to be growing worse. However, there are some states in which the problem is far more pervasive than others.
Florida has more identity theft complaints than any other state in the country, with 361.3 complaints per 100,000 residents last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 Consumer Sentinel Network report. There may be many potential reasons for this trend, with a larger transient population and massive number of tourists that visit the state every year, but nonetheless, the problem is almost twice as bad there as it is in second-ranked state Georgia. In fact, nine of the top 10 metropolitan areas suffering this problem nationwide were within the Sunshine State’s borders. And unfortunately, experts say that the only way consumers can keep on top of the issue is by being more vigilant and trying to spot this type of fraud as soon as it happens.
“Consumers can reduce the risk to themselves and their families by being vigilant and proactive to safeguard their personal information,” said Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions division at Equifax. “By analyzing the states and cities that have been hardest hit by identity theft, we can better understand the crime and help consumers protect themselves.”
Atlanta was the only non-Floridian metropolitan area in the top 10 for identity theft, checking in at No. 8 with 246.6 complaints per 100,000 residents, the report said. California came next, with 122.7 complaints per 100,000, and also the second-largest number of complaints overall, at 46,658. Michigan and New York rounded out the top five with rates slightly lower than those in California.
There are myriad reasons for all these complaints, the result of everything from widespread credit card theft scams to fraudulent tax return filings, the latter of which is particularly common in Florida, the report said.
For these reasons, it may be vital for consumers to keep close tabs on not only their credit and debit card accounts — to make sure no unauthorized transactions are taking place without their knowledge — but also their credit reports to help guarantee that criminals cannot open accounts in their names without their knowing about them.
“Since it is no longer a question of if, but when, we will become a victim, it is imperative we adopt a culture of monitoring so that we might detect a personal compromise as quickly as possible,” says Adam Levin, the co-founder and chairman of Credit.com and IdentityTheft911. “The mandatory first step is to obtain and review a copy of a credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies at least once a year.”
You can also monitor your credit using the free Credit Report Card, which updates your credit score once a month.