Residents of these states are most vulnerable to identity theft

Published: July 7, 2017 8:33 a.m. ET

Higher-earning residents tend to be at higher risk of becoming victims

Marc Serota/Getty Images
Florida’s high populations of senior citizens and children make it vulnerable to identity theft.



If you or your neighbors have been victims of identity theft recently, there’s a pretty good chance you live in Florida.

The Sunshine state is the most vulnerable in the U.S. for identity theft, according to a recent analysis from the personal-finance website SmartAsset. Florida was followed by Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Connecticut. The site ranked each state based on factors including Federal Trade Commission data on how many consumers complained about identity theft and identity fraud in 2015, per 100,000 residents.(Identity theft and identity fraud are similar terms and both used to refer to crimes that involve wrongfully obtaining and using another person’s personal data for crimes of deception.)

The top five states all had more than 550 complaints about identity fraud per 100,000 residents, and Florida topped the list with 1,510. Maryland had 749 complaints about identity fraud per 100,000 residents and also ranked high for household income, with 49.8% of households making more than $74,999, compared to 29.8% of Floridians.

Rank State Identity theft complaints per 100,000 residents Percent of residents aged under 10 or over 65
1 Florida 1,510 29.7
2 Maryland 749 25.8
3 Delaware 808 27.9
4 New Jersey 626 26.6
5 Connecticut 554 26.4
6 Rhode Island 765 26.1
7 California 750 25.5
8 Arizona 624 28.8
9 New Hampshire 572 25.8
10 Texas 941 26.1

SmartAsset used additional data to create the index for its state-by-state ranking, including the average number of credit cards per person in each state, from credit bureau Experian’s EXPN, +0.32%   2016 State of Credit report, the percent of households earning over $74,999, from U.S. Census Bureau data, and the percentage of the state population under age 10 or over age 65. Nearly 30% of Florida’s residents are younger than 10 or older than 65, SmartAsset found, compared to an average of about 27% for the other states.

See also: Why you shouldn’t answer the phone when the bank calls

Higher-earning residents tend to be at higher risk of becoming identity-theft and fraud victims, and children and seniors are also more at risk than young and middle-aged adults, said AJ Smith, SmartAsset’s vice president of financial education. The number of credit cards open was also a factor, she said, because having more lines of credit open leaves more possible channels open for theft.

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Retirees and children are frequent victims of identity theft, said Rick McElroy, a security strategist at the security firm Carbon Black. Senior citizens may be less knowledgeable about how to keep their personal information safe, he added. Many retired before cybersecurity training came to their workplaces, he said.

“They’re a little more trusting.”

Plus, elderly consumers also must give personal information out during medical appointments, he said, which can fall into the wrong hands if medical professionals mishandle it.

Children may also accidentally give too much personal information away online, he said. And, worse, parents may not realize fraudsters have stolen their children’s identities because they’re less likely to check a minor’s credit report.

Children who have never applied for credit, and who haven’t been designated as authorized users on their parents’ accounts, should not have credit reports nor histories; if fraudsters have stolen their identities, however, they might have accounts fraudulently opened in their names, McElroy said.

About one in 10 adults lost money in a phone scam in the last year, and on average lost $430 each, according to an analysis by TrueCaller, a Stockholm-based company that offers including caller ID and spam detection.

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