Thanks to several recent data breaches by highly respected companies, identity theft in America is once again making headlines. While it’s of benefit to consumers to see how and why identity theft occurs in the news, the real problem goes much deeper; most cases of identity theft are never reported to the public at large because taken individually, they aren’t newsworthy. It’s only when hundreds or thousands are impacted that the media takes note.
However, the data shows that identity theft is much worse in some parts of the country than in others and that overall identity theft in the US is on the rise. Although some states are taking action, the recession is making it more difficult for cash-strapped governments to fund new programs to combat this crime.
Where Identity Theft in America is the Worst
You might think that cities or states with higher populations have the highest incidents of identity theft, but on a per-capita basis, this is not always the case. Areas that have higher at-risk populations, such as the elderly, tend to have clusters of identity theft cases, as do areas where the crime is not as tightly policed. According to data compiled by Daily Finance, the ten worst states for identity theft and related fraud are:
- Florida: 694 complaints per 100,000 people
- Colorado: 656 complaints per 100,000 people
- Delaware: 636 complaints per 100,000 people
- Maryland: 633 complaints per 100,000 people
- Nevada: 620 complaints per 100,000 people
- Arizona: 602 complaints per 100,000 people
- Virginia: 595 complaints per 100,000 people
- Georgia: 568 complaints per 100,000 people
- Washington: 546 complaints per 100,000 people
- New Jersey: 538 complaints per 100,000 people
Where Identity Theft in America is Less of a Risk
Although data from the Consumer Sentinel Network shows that identity theft and cases of fraud have both increased exponentially in the last ten years, there are some areas of the country where identity theft is still a rare occurrence. According to the US Census Bureau, the states where the fewest cases of identity theft occur are:
- South Dakota: 24.6 complaints per 100,000 people
- North Dakota: 29.6 complaints per 100,000 people
- Maine: 32.0 complaints per 100,000 people
- Iowa: 36.5 complaints per 100,000 people
- New Hampshire: 38.2 complaints per 100,000 people
- Vermont: 39.2 complaints per 100,000 people
- Montana: 39.6 complaints per 100,000 people
- West Virginia: 40.5 complaints per 100,000 people
- Hawaii: 43.3 complaints per 100,000 people
- Wisconsin: 44.9 complaints per 100,000 people
What States Are Doing to Combat Identity Theft
Although consumer protection bureaus like the Federal Trade Commission are doing outreach to try to inform consumers about the risks of identity theft, these government agencies can seem remote from every day life. Let’s face it, it’s rare for someone to visit the FTC’s website in the first place! That’s why states are starting to take a greater role in helping victims deal with identity theft. Notable efforts include:
- The state of Virginia has made identity theft resulting in losses of $200 or greater a felony punishable by at least one year in prison.
- The Texas Attorney General is releasing Identity Theft Victim Kits to make it faster and easier American identity theft victims to file the necessary reports and contact all relevant agencies using easy to understand language and checklists.
- California has formed an Identity Theft Database to track cases of identity theft, and is operating five Hi-Tech Crimes Task Forces specifically dedicated to investigating and prosecuting this crime.