Identity theft continues to be a scourge in the U.S. and a top source of consumer complaints nationwide. But the problem is much worse in some places than in others.
“Some states have higher demands for fake identities,” explains Ondrej Krehel, founder of LIFARS, an online security intelligence firm.
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In ascending order, here are the states that had the greatest rates of identity theft in 2015, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a database of complaints lodged with government agencies and consumer groups.
ID theft fact: Nearly 4 out of 10 people who filed identity theft complaints with the government and watchdog groups in 2015 said that they also contacted police. Of those who went to law enforcement, 89% said that a report was taken by officers.
ID theft fact: Identity theft is the top consumer complaint among U.S. military enlisted personnel and officers. The Consumer Sentinel Network received nearly 33,000 ID theft complaints in 2015 from members of the military. In more than half those cases, victims said personal information was stolen to commit fraud involving government documents or benefits.
ID theft fact: Identity thieves misuse victims’ information in numerous ways beyond fraud associated with taxes and wages. In 2015, government documents or benefits fraud was alleged in 49.2% of identity theft cases, compared with 38.7% in 2014. But credit card fraud related to ID theft slid from 17.4% of complaints in 2014 to 15.8% in 2015.
ID theft fact: While Florida ranks third for identity theft complaints per capita, it’s the No. 1 state for fraud and other broader types of consumer complaints, followed by Georgia and Michigan. Homosassa Springs, Florida, north of Tampa, is the top U.S. metro area for fraud and related complaints.
ID theft fact: Identity theft was at the core of 16% of consumer complaints made to government agencies and private watchdog groups in 2015, up from 13% in 2014. More general fraud was behind 44% of last year’s complaints, the Consumer Sentinel Network says.
ID theft fact: Not only is Missouri the state with the highest rate of identity-theft complaints, St. Louis is the top metro area for this crime. It’s followed by: California-Lexington Park, Maryland; and the vast South Florida metro area that includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.