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States and Metro Areas With the Most Identity Theft Complaints

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Santosh Krishnan had been arrested but didn’t know it. He only learned about his “crime” later, when Krishnan’s uncle called him at work.

“He informed me that a sheriff had come to his house to inform him … that I’d been arrested,” Krishnan says. “I was confused, shocked, and I felt insecure.”

Krishnan was a victim of identity theft. A sales clerk, and later the local police, became suspicious of a man using Krishnan’s credit card information and identification to buy a TV. The man was later arrested and presented Krishnan’s credentials to police.

Krishnan reclaimed his identity after sorting out the mess with the police, but he had to freeze his credit reports. That meant no credit cards or loans could be extended in his name unless he arranged with the credit bureaus to temporarily lift the freeze.

Krishnan isn’t the only one whose world has been rocked by identity theft. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, the Federal Trade Commission logged 490,220 identity theft complaints, up an astonishing 47% from 2014. The most common type of reported identity theft was fraud related to taxes or wages, which made up 45% of the complaints, followed by fraud involving credit cards (16%), phone or utilities (10%) and bank accounts (6%).

Identity theft complaints by state

To get a fuller picture of the highest concentration of identity theft complaints last year, NerdWallet looked at the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, released in February. The report identifies the number of identity theft complaints per 100,000 people in each state and Washington, D.C., between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015.

The map below shows how identity theft rates differ across the U.S. To see the rate of identity theft complaints per 100,000 people, click on the fraud categories and hover over a state — you may need to drag the map left to hover over some states. Or, you can scroll through the list of all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

RankStateTotal ID theft Government Documents or Benefits Fraud Credit Card Fraud Phone or Utilities FraudBank Fraud Loan Fraud Employment-Related Fraud
1Missouri364.3294.717.49.68.45.93.3
2District of Columbia228.0105.228.123.217.47.76.0
3Connecticut225.0144.828.220.08.12.83.8
4Florida217.4107.739.518.416.85.64.2
5Maryland183.2103.925.415.09.94.73.2
6Illinois158.778.822.421.87.84.44.7
7Michigan158.181.519.627.86.93.83.2
8Georgia149.163.624.719.810.06.93.0
9Texas144.368.820.511.98.28.67.8
10New Hampshire142.095.116.28.56.11.91.0
11California141.343.532.917.610.86.68.6
12Rhode Island141.284.517.29.85.96.23.1
13Wisconsin134.485.116.16.35.63.72.6
14Ohio134.480.417.112.36.04.02.0
15Arizona133.859.218.610.17.54.111.7
16Oregon126.172.217.77.86.92.02.9
17Washington126.158.023.28.78.52.64.9
18New Jersey125.855.323.714.87.33.44.6
19Massachusetts125.572.616.99.46.22.43.1
20Nevada125.040.928.311.710.36.35.5
21Delaware124.968.118.412.47.04.83.1
22Virginia123.265.216.812.37.43.11.6
23Colorado123.261.118.88.06.92.87.4
24New York122.049.325.612.69.13.83.3
25Oklahoma120.071.713.87.56.03.53.8
26Pennsylvania116.255.219.616.05.92.53.3
27Maine113.970.614.95.75.41.70.8
28Kansas112.756.516.77.57.94.62.3
29Tennessee107.952.015.713.16.73.92.2
30North Carolina106.056.314.810.46.63.22.4
31Alabama102.349.213.711.16.65.82.7
32South Carolina102.347.115.211.46.54.82.1
33Idaho101.361.710.55.94.04.72.4
34New Mexico101.138.115.89.97.85.16.7
35Nebraska100.555.912.96.86.01.83.7
36Mississippi98.849.811.413.05.44.42.2
37Minnesota97.849.816.57.76.12.12.5
38Arkansas97.752.612.88.86.02.83.2
39Wyoming96.654.813.65.63.82.72.0
40Louisiana94.448.112.28.05.75.11.9
41Alaska94.354.411.45.84.52.01.5
42Indiana93.946.012.212.14.72.62.7
43Iowa89.757.710.75.34.11.41.6
44Montana87.252.711.84.64.11.51.5
45Utah85.740.614.05.45.24.63.5
46Vermont83.948.112.16.24.81.41.0
47Kentucky80.940.811.26.74.72.12.3
48West Virginia79.941.110.610.43.11.61.5
49North Dakota76.042.811.15.73.33.70.8
50South Dakota63.135.87.63.63.12.91.4
51Hawaii62.625.814.24.25.22.00.9

Identity theft complaints by metro area

The FTC also examined every U.S. metro area with 100,000 people or more. Below are the 50 metro areas with the most identity theft complaints.

RankMetropolitan AreaComplaints Per 100,000 peopleTotal complaints
1St. Louis, MO-IL 68419,195
2California-Lexington Park, MD 356.9394
3Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 300.717,832
4Iowa City, IA 256.1421
5Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 253.92,400
6Muncie, IN 241.7283
7Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 237.4828
8Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 235.92,865
9Jefferson City, MO 227.4343
10Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 220.49,468
11Columbia, MO 219.4379
12Torrington, CT 216.8401
13Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 216.63,405
14Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 213.56,225
15Tallahassee, FL 211.8796
16Jacksonville, FL 208.42,958
17New Haven-Milford, CT 206.21,776
18Gainesville, FL 203.7557
19Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 192.213,364
20Ann Arbor, MI 191.4683
21Port St. Lucie, FL 191.3850
22Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 191.24,439
23North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 188.21,409
24Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 185.610,418
25Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 184.65,144
26Racine, WI 180.4352
27Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 179.511,652
28Punta Gorda, FL 179.3302
29Homosassa Springs, FL 177.9248
30Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 175.610,597
31Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL 174.8253
32Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 174.11,183
33San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 173.47,968
34Dayton, OH 170.71,367
35Tulsa, OK 168.91,637
36Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 167.9935
37The Villages, FL 167.9192
38Cleveland-Elyria, OH 166.73,440
39Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 165.6714
40Gainesville, GA 164.6314
41Manchester-Nashua, NH 164.1665
42Stockton-Lodi, CA 162.51,163
43Memphis, TN-MS-AR 161.92,175
44Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 161.81,027
45Springfield, MO 161.8732
46Kansas City, MO-KS 161.73,348
47Charlottesville, VA 161.3366
48Norwich-New London, CT 158.9435
49Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 156.1952
50Madison, WI 154.9982

NerdWallet’s analysis

Massive data breaches inflate rates in certain regions: Some 780 large-scale data breaches were reported in 2015, which resulted in the compromise of nearly 180 million records, according to a report from the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. A breach at health insurer Anthem in early 2015, for example, exposed about 80 million records, including Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and other personal information.

Just one large data breach can skew the ID fraud rate for an individual metro area. The Anthem breach may have accounted for the higher rate of fraud complaints in Connecticut, for example, where it’s the largest insurer in the state. Officials at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana, No. 6 on the metro identity theft list, reportedly suspect that the Anthem breach contributed to a rash of identity theft complaints among its employees.

A spokesperson at Anthem, one of hundreds of businesses targeted by hackers last year, said in an emailed statement that the damage from this incident was contained. “In working with the FBI, we have found no evidence that the cyber attackers who attacked Anthem last year have shared or sold any of our members’ data, and there is no evidence that fraud has occurred against our members, including fraudulent tax returns, resulting from the attack.”

Consumer empowerment to report identity theft varies. These FTC figures reflect the number of identity-theft complaints reported, not how many incidents of the crime actually occurred. Some metro areas may make the list above in part because their residents feel more empowered to report identity theft than in others. For example, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland, which serves the California-Lexington Park metro area, offers identity-theft victims a thorough checklist that includes instructions for filing a complaint with the FTC. Local consumer advocacy groups and news coverage of high-profile data breaches may also alert residents about identity theft and how to report it.

How to prevent identity theft

Identity theft can inflict a range of damages. With your personal information, thieves can claim a tax refund in your name, open new utility accounts and or even use your health insurance. They can drain your bank account and leave you with bad credit, forcing you to rebuild your credit for years. Here’s how to prevent the nightmare of identity theft:

Protect your personal information. Educate yourself on how to keep your personal information secure. This FTC resource gives guidance for protecting yourself offline and online.

Look for the warning signs of identity theft. Scan your bank account and credit card statements for unfamiliar withdrawals and charges, which can be a sign of credit card fraud. Check for unfamiliar accounts on your credit report at least once a year. Other signs of identity theft include missing bills and other mail, collectors calling about debts you don’t owe, bills for medical services you never used, and notification from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name.

Another sign you’re at risk of identity theft: Notification that your information was compromised in a data breach. After such a notification, “it becomes about detection and vigilance,” says Eva Velasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Now it’s about understanding what type of information has been compromised, how it can be used to commit identity theft and where you need to start looking to detect an actual misuse.”

Act fast if you suspect a breach. Log on to IdentityTheft.gov. This FTC tool asks questions about your situation and uses your answers to create a personal recovery plan. If you create an account, the site walks you through each step, providing prefilled forms, including a sample letter to a debt collector to inquire about debts racked up by a thief, and linking to IRS forms for tax identity theft.

Sreekar Jasthi is a data analyst at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: sreekar@nerdwallet.com. Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: lmcmullen@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.


Methodology

Identity theft complaints per 100,000 people for each state and metropolitan statistical area are from the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, released in February 2016. The Consumer Sentinel Network is an online database of consumer complaints received by the FTC, as well as local law enforcement organizations, federal agencies including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the IRS, and nongovernment groups including the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The complaints in this report were filed between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015. Keep in mind that the total number of identity thefts in any given year is understood to be higher than the FTC data indicates because some breaches are not discovered or reported to authorities.