By Bethany Blankley
California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia reported the most identity theft cases to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2018, according to most recent available data.
Of the nearly three million fraud cases reported to the FTC, there were 444,602 cases of identity theft in 2018. They accounted for 14.85 percent of all cases and represent the third most common type of fraud.
Identity theft, one type of financial fraud, involves the criminal practice of obtaining a person’s information and personal details to use for fraudulent purposes.
California reported 73,668 cases, Texas reported 45,030, Florida reported 37,797, New York reported 24,248, and Georgia, 23,871. Vermont reported the least number of identity theft cases.
Georgia, Nevada and California were the top three states for identity theft by population, according to an analysis of the data published by The Motley Fool.
Although Georgia consistently ranked among the worst states for identity theft, the Motley Fool report found that the state with the most identity theft reports per capita fluctuated. In 2017 and 2016, Michigan ranked worst; in 2015, Missouri ranked worst; and Florida ranked worst in 2014.
Identity theft victims between the ages of 30 and 39 were targeted the most, according to FTC data. This age group accounted for 26.1 percent of all identity theft reports. However, the breakdown of identity theft by age doesn’t include all identity theft reports, the Motley Fool report notes, because not all reports include a victim’s age.
Credit card fraud is the most common type of identity theft, according to the FTC, representing 29.1 percent of total cases reported, nearly triple of those reported since 2014.
Data breaches contributed to identity theft and credit card fraud. Almost 450 million records containing personal data were exposed through data breaches in 2018.
Hacking accounted for 39 percent of data breaches in 2018, according to the report.
To protect against fraud, the Motley Fool suggests that consumers monitor their credit history, and especially watch out for new accounts opened in their name without their knowledge. Two effective options to consider, it suggests, include creating credit fraud alerts, which require lenders to take additional verification steps before opening an account, and implementing credit freezes, which prevent anyone from accessing credit reports.