There are a lot of factors that can put you at risk for identity theft, and where you live can be one of them. According to a study released by WalletHub, a personal finance website, certain states have a higher risk of identity theft than others.
Using the data from complaints filed to the Federal Trade Commission, data from FICO and cyber crime losses reported to the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center, WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across different types of fraud: identity theft, credit card fraud, government documents and benefits, phone and utilities and banks and employment.
The study found that the states that have the most identity theft complaints per capita are Missouri, Oregon, District of Columbia, Washington and Florida. Residents of South Dakota are the least likely to become victims of identity theft, which is due in part to its small population in comparison to higher risk states like Florida and New York. While the study considered identity theft complaints per 100,000 residents, even banks and retailers in areas with small populations seem to be targeted less frequently too.
“A lot of those states with smaller populations, they’re just not priorities,” Jill Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for WalletHub, explained to MarketWatch.
While it’s not conclusive what exactly makes certain states more likely to have identity theft victims than others, there are theories. In the case of Florida, it could possibly be explained by demographics. The state is popular for its retirement communities, and WalletHub found that it ranked highest for phone and utilities fraud, and in the top five for government benefit-related and credit card fraud. Gonzalez explained that elderly people tend to give away sensitive information on the phone, especially if the thieves are posing as bank or government officials.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, fraud cases related to banking, credit cards or other financial information have not been as widespread this year compared to other types of fraud, such as business and health care data breaches, but 2015 has seen its share of devastating damage due to fraud.
Many large corporations and government agencies have been the victims of data breaches, such as CVS and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, encouraging these organizations to reconsider their cybersecurity measures and consumers to take control of their own security. With December being National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month, it’s important to understand your vulnerabilities and how you can mitigate them.
Regardless of where you live, if you’re concerned about your susceptibility to identity theft, you can invest in a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain activity that may indicate fraud and prompt you to take action, like obtaining a credit freeze.