How Identity Thieves Steal Your Personal Data

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its annual fraud report showing the best, and worst, states for identity theft. The FTC received more than one million reports of identity theft in 2024.

More states in the Northeast were included in the ten states with the most reported cases of identity theft per capita compared to last year, when six of the states were in the South.

The ten states with the most reported cases of identity theft per capita (not including Washington, D.C., which had the most cases if included) are:
 

  1. Georgia with 48,606 cases (457 per 100,000 people);
  2. Florida with 93,547 cases (438 per 100,000 people);
  3. Nevada with 12,362 cases (404 per 100,000 people);
  4. Connecticut with 13,848 cases (384 per 100,000 people);
  5. Delaware with 3,523 cases (359 per 100,000 people);
  6. Massachusetts with 23,540 cases (351 per 100,000 people);
  7. Texas with 101,002 cases (350 per 100,000 people);
  8. Pennsylvania with 40,778 cases (314 per 100,000 people);
  9. Illinois with 39,314 cases (307 per 100,000 people); and
  10. California with 119,929 cases (304 per 100,000 people).

The ten states with the lowest per capita rates of reported identity theft, ranging from 94 to 126 per 100,000 people, are South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, West Virginia, Alaska, North Dakota, Kentucky, Hawaii, Idaho, and Montana. These states tend to have lower population rates overall.

According to experts, identity theft "is often a crime of opportunity," and taking steps to protect your identity can help prevent its theft, particularly if you live in a high-risk state.

Ways to help protect your identity include shredding sensitive documents; installing anti-virus software on your computer; using strong, unique passwords for online accounts; freezing your credit; and placing a fraud alert on your credit. Jennifer Streaks "States With the Most and Least Identity Theft" www.businessinsider.com (Apr. 29, 2024).

Commentary

Identity thieves have many ways of stealing your identity so they can use it for nefarious purposes.

According to the federal government, identity theft can occur in person, online, by phone, or through social media.

Identity thieves may steal your purse or wallet to get your ID, bank, and credit cards. They may take bank statements or tax documents out of your trash. Or, they might install skimmers on ATMs, fuel pumps, and cash registers that copy your credit or debit card information.

Identity thieves can also access your device when you use public Wi-Fi and steal your personal data. They may try to trick you into sharing personal information with phishing emails, texts, or phone calls, or online quizzes or surveys. Identity thieves may even look through your social media accounts to find out personal information about you. "Identity Theft" www.usa.gov (May 03, 2024).

Here are some signs your identity may have been compromised:

  • Unauthorized charges appear on credit or bank accounts.
  • Being denied a line of credit for a poor credit rating, despite a history of good credit
  • Failing to receive credit card or bank statements in the mail as expected
  • Being contacted by creditors about money owed for items you or your employer did not purchase
  • Failing to receive new or renewed credit cards in the mail
  • Merchants refuse to honor checks.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you did not receive.
  • A health plan rejects a claim because you have reached your spending limit.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return or refund request was filed in your or your employer's name.
  • An organization you do business with, or have an account with, notifies you that a data breach compromised your, or your employer's, information.
Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: