Do you live in Florida, Georgia, California, Arizona or Texas?
If so, you may be at greater risk for identity theft. Scambook explains why the Federal Trade Commission has identified these states as the Top 5 locations for identity theft in 2011. Scambook reveals what factors make these states so appealing to identity thieves?
1. Population Density.
Identity theft is largely opportunistic. It takes too much time, planning and energy to target a specific individual for identity theft, so most criminals instead cast a wide net and see what they catch. They know that they’ll get a bigger haul of stolen credit cards or Social Security numbers if they focus on states with more people. Thieves may utilize software that targets IP addresses or phone area codes within these densely populated areas. Sometimes, they also test their tactics in certain regional “markets” before launching a nationwide attack. Based on exclusive data provided by Scambook users, we tracked the growth of one widespread smishing scheme, the $1000 Walmart Gift Card Text, and determined that the trend started in the Midwest and Eastern US before spreading across the country. (Click here to read Scambook’s in-depth analysis of the $1000 Walmart Gift Card Text.)
2. Age Demographics.
Statistics show that identity theft victims primarily fall into two groups: the young and the old. According to the FTC’s 2011 findings, 31% of identity theft victims were age 29 or younger. On the other end of the spectrum, 30% of victims were 50 or older. In both groups, technology plays a significant role in making them vulnerable to identity theft. Older people tend to be less familiar with the Internet, email and mobile phones. Their lack of experience makes them easier to exploit. As for young people, let’s move on to our third point:
3. Internet Usage.
Today’s identity thieves utilize the Internet more than ever. Cybercriminals steal your information through unsecured wireless networks, phishing attacks, computer viruses and malicious websites that install spyware, Trojans or keyloggers on your system. Each of the top at-risk states named by the FTC have a high percentage of Internet users, who usually skew younger.
Over 54% of adults under 25 also use smartphones such as iPhones, Blackberry devices and Android phones. These mobile devices are constantly connected to the Internet via public WiFi, 3G and 4G data networks, even if they’re just in your pocket or purse. The more time you spend online, the more opportunities you give to the hackers laying traps for your identity.
4. Military Service.
According to the FTC, identity theft is the number one complaint reported by members of the military. Military servicemen and women are especially vulnerable to identity theft because of the travel required by their duties. They’re more likely to conduct financial business, such as banking or credit applications, over a variety of different Internet connections as they travel. Service members are also slower to spot unauthorized credit card charges and other suspicious activity due to extended training or deployment.
The Top 5 States for Identity Theft in the US
Now that we’ve analyzed the risk factors, we can begin to
see why the FTC’s Top 5 States for Identity Theft hold this unfortunate distinction.
Florida: 6% of the nation’s overall population, highest population of US senior citizens (17%). 37% of Florida’s population are 29 and under. Number 3 for Internet users and Number 8 for active duty military population.
Georgia: 3.2% of the US population lives in Georgia. 10% of Georgia’s population are 65 and over, 43% of the population are 29 and under. Number 4 for active duty military nationwide. 76% of Georgians use the Internet.
California: 12% of the US population lives in California. 11% of Californians are 65 and over, 43% are 29 and under. Number 2 for active duty military population, Number 1 for total Internet use.
Arizona: 2.1% of the US population lives in Arizona. 14% of Arizona’s population are 65 and over, 42% are 29 and under. 79% of Arizona residents use the Internet. Arizona’s active duty military population was 21,343 in 2009.
Texas: 8.1% of the US population lives in Texas. 10% of Texas’ population are 65 and over, 45% are 29 and under. Number 2 for Internet users and Number 1 for active duty military nationwide.
If you live in one of these high risk states or realize you’re in a target demographic, don’t worry. There are steps you can take to protect your privacy.
Make sure that your computer is equipped with the latest firewall and antivirus software. Keep these tools updated and turned on whenever you’re connected to the internet. Don’t engage in online activities like banking or shopping when you’re using a public network, such as a library, coffee shop or airport.
If you use a smartphone, change the settings so your mobile device won’t automatically connect to any WiFi network it finds. Then, when it shows you a list of nearby networks, only connect to the protected networks you trust. Try to avoid sending credit card information on your smartphone (e.g. using mobile shopping and banking apps).
Create strong, secure passwords for your online accounts to prevent hacking. Watch our video to learn some easy password tips.
It’s also important to keep an eye on your monthly bills and your credit history. The sooner you notice suspicious activity, the sooner you can report it and get your identity back. Click here to watch our video about how to dispute unauthorized credit card charges.
Remember to use extreme caution when giving out your personal or financial information to strangers. If you get an unsolicited phone call from a telemarketer or someone collecting money for charity, get their information, look them up on Scambook and call them back later if you’re still interested in the transaction. You should also be very careful about the information you disclose when you date online. Watch this video to learn why.
If you’ve been victimized by identity theft or credit card fraud, click here to report it on Scambook.