Which States Have the Highest Rates of ID Theft?

october 20, 2021 | identity theft
Father discovering identity theft

How does Nevada stack up in terms of identity (ID) theft rates? Or Alaska. Or North Carolina. Logical thinkers might predict that ID theft per capita would be the same across the nation, but they would be wrong. Some states have much higher rates of identity theft than others. Knowing your state's rate helps you understand the risks in your vicinity. That knowledge could prove priceless in protecting your identity from fraud or abuse. First, however, you'll need to grasp what drives the statistics as well as the raw numbers.

How State Rates Are Obtained

The federal government tracks ID theft rates and sorts them by state. Annually, The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) releases the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) yearly report, which covers identity theft, fraud, imposter scams and an array of other crimes.

Complaints arrive at CSN from 25 states, the Better Business Bureau, local law enforcement groups, the FBI and other entities. In addition, hundreds of crime-tracking agencies feed case data into the CSN report.

In 2020, FTC offices received 2.2 million fraud complaints directly. CSN added another 2.5 million to the year's total. Over 1.4 million complaints concerned identity theft, with some individuals reporting their second or third ID theft experience. These thefts topped CSN lists.

"In 2020, people filed more reports about Identity Theft (29.4% of all reports), in all its various forms, than any other type of complaint. Imposter Scams, a subset of Fraud reports, followed with 498,278 reports from consumers in 2020 (10.6% of all reports)," according to Sentinel reporting.

Are Identity Thieves Moving North?

A decade ago, Florida often topped the list of states where ID theft occurred. Today, Florida has been dethroned as the nation's ID theft queen. Since 2019, Georgia, Washington and Louisiana have surpassed the Sunshine State. During the first half of 2021, Florida ranks #9 on the list.

Kansas, Rhode Island, Illinois, Nevada and Washington occupied the top five state slots on the list in 2020. Massachusetts ranked #6, followed by Georgia, Arkansas, Maine and Louisiana.

Top 10 States Where ID Theft Occurred in 2020 

1. Kansas
2. Rhode Island
3. Illinois
4. Nevada
5. Washington
6. Massachusetts
7. Georgia
8. Arkansas
9. Maine
10. Louisiana

Source: U.S. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2020

Ranking is one way to spot emerging hot spots for identity thieves. But it's too early to predict a northward migration by identity thieves because the pandemic skewed some of the statistics. Government benefits fraud, for example, soared due to widespread unemployment compensation theft.

Unemployment fraud recently hit Kansas very hard, which might explain some of its meteoric rise to the top of the heap. Kansans experienced 1,438 identity theft problems per 100,000 state residents in 2020. Neighboring Nebraska reported only 113 per 100,000 inhabitants.

For the first half of 2021, Rhode Island claimed the top spot. Still, that rise may prove fleeting if Hurricane Ida spread lots of personally identifiable information (PII) documents around that coastal state. In just six months, Rhode Island reports 1,705 identity theft claims per 100,000 residents.

Check out the FTC's interactive state map on identity theft; this tool lets you select different years and states. Individual states will rise or fall in the rankings each year, but the device illustrates state progress in thwarting ID theft. What you want to see is a downward trend for your location.

Reasons Why Some States Struggle

You might think Florida became a perennial problem because of its aging population. That's one potential factor, but natural disasters also pump up the opportunity for crooks, and Florida endures more than its share of those. All those years in the spotlight made the Sunshine State a target not only for thieves. The U.S. Attorney's Office, Postal Inspector and other government agencies made the state a major focus and probably triggered its decline in the ratings.

Coronavirus has likely impacted recent ID theft rates significantly. Jumps in areas where unemployment hit an all-time high may soon start to reverse. While advanced age may factor into scammer target selection, millennials get targeted more and often fall harder for identity theft ploys.

Weather and population density can also influence rankings. For example, more temperate states could see more dumpster diving for discarded PII. There's more activity in the Southern and Southwestern states in the winter months, which may also feed stolen ID statistics. And, naturally, urban areas are hot spots because they offer more targets to exploit.

Shield Yourself

Damage done by identity thieves hurts far more than your wallet. It does more than eat up your discretionary time. Studies have documented a trail of emotional damages that ID theft can leave in its wake.

Your first smart move is to report your experiences. The FTC streamlined the online fraud reporting process in 2020, so informing them regarding your experience has been simplified.

IDShield can help with problems like identity theft. If you've already become an identity thief's victim, we assist you throughout your recovery. Our identity monitoring offers a detailed restoration service to help you undo the harm rapidly.

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. IDShield plans are available at individual or family rates. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.

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