Identity theft continues to plague consumers, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
While incidence of this crime skyrockets—consumer complaints have risen by 47 percent—there have been shifts in the which states are affected the most.
Missouri is the No. 1 hotbed for identity theft, according to the FTC’s 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. The state has that dubious distinction largely because St. Louis has rocketed to the top of the list of hardest-hit metropolitan areas with more than six percent of its population lodging identity theft complaints.
Here are the states with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints:
9. New Hampshire
Connecticut catapulted to the No. 2 spot from 14th place in 2015, thanks mainly to an increase in identity theft involving government documents or benefits and credit cards.
Florida lost its title as the worst state for identity-theft prevalence—a position it held for several years— even though incidence in that state actually rose by about 17 percent.
Nationally, identity theft is growing worse, with complaints rising by 47 percent, according to the FTC report. The big driver behind the surge is a startling rise in tax- and wage-related fraud, which accounted for 45 percent of all identity theft complaints last year, up from 33 percent a year earlier.
Such theft often occurs when a thief uses someone’s Social Security number and other personal information to file a fraudulent return, and receive refund check. This seems to be what’s happening in St. Louis, which went from 100th on the FTC’s metro-area list in 2014 to third in 2015 and now first.
Consumers can protect themselves by adopting simple strategies to secure their personal data:
• Get a shredder to destroy documents containing sensitive information.
• Activate passcodes on devices to protect banking PINs.
• Use strong passwords on all accounts and never use the same password for more than one account.
• Trim your wallet so that if it’s lost or stolen, you limit the information thieves can steal.
• Update software to protect devices from viruses and malware.
If you suspect you're a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider.