The effects of identity theft can range from annoyance to agony — private information on finances, health insurance, taxes and more can all be compromised. Last year alone, identity theft complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission skyrocketed 47%.
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%), according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, released in February.
Identity theft complaints by state
NerdWallet studied the FTC data to see where the highest concentration of identity theft complaints were reported. The data identify 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, click on the fraud categories and hover over a state. You may need to drag the map left to hover over some states.
Identity theft complaints by metro area
The FTC also examined every U.S. metro area with 100,000 people or more. Below are the 10 metro areas with the most identity theft complaints per 100,000 people.
1. St. Louis, MO-IL, 684.0
2. California-Lexington Park, MD, 356.9
3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL, 300.7
4. Iowa City, IA, 256.1
5. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT, 253.9
6. Muncie, IN, 241.7
7. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL, 237.4
8. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT, 235.9
9. Jefferson City, MO, 227.4
10. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI, 220.4
When reviewing the states and metro areas with the highest concentrations of identity theft complaints, consider that 780 large-scale data breaches were reported in 2015, compromising nearly 180 million records, according to a report from the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. Just one major breach can skew the identity theft rate for an individual metro area.
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 those in other cities. Local consumer advocacy groups and news coverage of high-profile data breaches may also alert residents about identity theft and how to report it.
What to do if you suspect identity theft
Look out for the warning signs of identity theft, like unfamiliar withdrawals and charges on your bank account and credit card statements. These can signal credit card fraud, which can lead to bad credit and leave you to trying to rebuild your credit for years. 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, warnings that your information was compromised in a data breach, and notification from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name.
If you suspect a breach, visit IdentityTheft.gov. This FTC tool asks questions about your situation and uses your answers to create a personal recovery plan.
To learn more about identity theft and NerdWallet’s methodology, see the full study: States and Metro Areas With the Most Identity Theft Complaints.
Sreekar Jasthi is a data analyst at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter:@lauraemcmullen.