BALTIMORE, MD—Identity theft and fraud cost Americans billions of their hard-earned dollars each year, and new dangers such as the recent MOVEit data breach are popping up all the time. Some places are more susceptible to this issue than others, though. For example, the District of Columbia tops the list of the places most vulnerable to identity theft and fraud, according to a new report by the free credit-monitoring website WalletHub. Delaware, Florida, Nevada and Georgia were close behind. Maryland came in at No. 7 on the list. The report analyzed 14 key metrics relating to each state’s vulnerability to identity theft and fraud, as well as state policies that protect against these crimes.
“In the District of Columbia, there were a staggering 1,747 fraud complaints per 100,000 residents last year, more than anywhere else in the nation. It’s worrying that the home of the federal government also happens to be the area most vulnerable to identity theft and fraud,” said Cassandra Happe, WalletHub analyst. “One key reason why the District of Columbia is so vulnerable is that it lacks key laws to protect consumers when it comes to things like data disposal, phishing, spyware and more. There’s a bit of irony to the fact that the place where all lawmakers meet hasn’t passed these important laws for its own residents.”
10 Most and Least Vulnerable States
|1. District of Columbia
|6. South Carolina
|48. New Mexico
|50. Rhode Island
While every state struggles with identity theft and fraud to some degree, each of the most vulnerable states has its own challenges. Delaware has the highest ratio of people arrested for fraud per capita. Florida was one of the only states where identity theft complaints actually increased year-over-year in 2022 (by 1.75%), when most states had fairly significant decreases, and its high population of seniors likely contributes to its vulnerability. Nevada lacks a cybersecurity task force, and Georgia has the highest number of identity theft complaints and the second-highest number of fraud complaints (per 100,000 people) in the nation.
“Regardless of whether you live in one of the most vulnerable states, protecting yourself against identity theft and fraud is incredibly important for your financial safety,” noted Happe. “Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to guard yourself, including monitoring your credit and non-credit accounts regularly, being careful who you give your personal information to and making sure your devices don’t get accessed by other people.”
Tips for Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
- Monitor your important information: Regularly look at your credit accounts (e.g. credit cards, lines of credit, loans), non-credit accounts (e.g. checking and savings, IRA and money market accounts), and credit reports for irregularities and report them if they arise. Pay attention to any fraud notifications sent by your financial institutions.
- Protect your devices: Don’t install anything on your computer that you didn’t actively search for, and don’t click on any links that you’re unsure where they lead. Avoid public computers and Wi-Fi, and install a VPN for protection. Only use secure websites, enable two-factor authentication and change your passwords regularly.
- Protect your documents: Consider putting a lock on your mailbox so no one can steal the contents. Destroy old documents with personal information you no longer need. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place at home (not in your wallet) and keep photocopies of the items that are in your wallet.
- Use credit cards: All major credit card networks guarantee $0 liability for fraudulent purchases, so using a credit card for most of your spending helps keep you safe. If you notice anything amiss with your credit card account, report it right away so it can get investigated and you can get a new card. Destroy your old card whenever you’re issued a new one.
- Consider premium identity theft protection: While there are plenty of things you can do to protect your identity on your own, you can raise your protection to the next level with professional services. Premium identity theft protection can boost your safety with ID theft insurance, expert help resolving your problems, dark web monitoring to make sure your info doesn’t pop up in bad places, bank account monitoring and more.
The full report is available online here at WalletHub.
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