Where Is Identity Theft Most Likely To Strike?
The threat of identity theft, exacerbated by increasingly complex attacks on business payment systems, is a regular part of 21st Century life. In the world of today, a thief can compromise you in more ways than one — through cyber attacks like those seen against Target, through malware on your home computer, or through a general carelessness in the handling of your personal information.
“As businesses increasingly depend on electronic data and computer networks to conduct their daily operations, growing pools of personal and financial information are being transferred and stored online,” explained the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). “This can leave individuals exposed to privacy violations and financial institutions and other businesses exposed to potentially enormous liability, if and when a breach in data security occurs.”
Other than the factors listed above, geography can also play a large role in these invasions of privacy and attacks on your identity. Recently, the I.I.I. released identity theft rankings for all 50 states. Here’s what they found:
Florida was the highest ranking state for identity theft with 361.3 complaints issued per 100,000 population. Overall the state laid claim to 69,795 individual complaints. In second place, Georgia perhaps due to its proximity to Florida and being home to the city of Atlanta, racked up 193.9 complaints per 100,000 with 19,232 total complaints. No. 3 went to California, which housed more individual complaints than Georgia at 46,658, but had a lower rate with 122.7 per 100,000.
The rest of the top 10 stacked up as follows:
- No. 4: Michigan — 122.2 per 100k, 12,075
- No. 5: New York — 110.1 per 100k, 21,538
- No. 6: Nevada — 109.9 per 100k, 3,032
- No. 7: Texas — 108.6 per 100k, 28,299
- No. 8: Arizona — 107.3 per 100k, 7,032
- No. 9: Maryland — 105.0 per 100k, 6,178
- No. 10: Alabama — 104.9 per 100k, 5,060
As for the least susceptible states for identity theft, South Dakota was No. 50 with just 39.6 complaints per 100,000 population and 330 total complaints. North Dakota was just behind its neighbor to the south with 41.2 per 100k, though it did win out on number of complaints with just 288.
Other standouts for safety included: Hawaii (No. 48), Montana (No. 47), Maine (No. 46), Alaska (No. 45), Vermont (No. 44), Iowa (No. 43), West Virginia (No. 42), and Wyoming (No. 41).
During the three-year period from 2010 to 2012, the amount of identity theft/consumer/fraud complaints rose from 1,467,255 in 2010 to 2,061,495 in 2012. Of the 2012 numbers — the last complete year of data per the I.I.I. — fraud complaints ranked highest with 52 percent while “Other Consumer Complaints” accounted for 30 percent and identity theft for 18 percent.
Victims’ information was primarily used for government documents and benefits fraud (46 percent), while credit card ranked a distant second at 13 percent and phone or utilities fraud at 10 percent.
“The increase in online shopping in recent years has created new avenues for identity thieves,” the I.I.I. acknowledged. “However, a study by Travelers Insurance of its 2011 identity claims found that burglary and theft of physical objects led to the majority of identity theft claims.”
That previous study listed the following as the primary causes for most identity fraud:
- Burglary and theft of a wallet, purse, personal identification or computer (73 percent)
- Online or data breach (15 percent)
- Forgery (10 percent)
- Change of address/postal fraud (2 percent)
Even if you’re vigilant, there’s a chance that you could end up being victimized, so it’s necessary to take all the preventive steps that you can while being sure to act swiftly if your info falls in to the wrong hands. You may not be able to prevent it from happening, but you can minimize the damages.