Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
Cities With the Highest Rates of Identity Theft [2023 Data Study]
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Data breaches are on the rise, both throughout the U.S. and globally.¹ Anyone and everyone is at risk of falling victim to a data breach or cyber attack, and hackers and cybercriminals come up with new ways to steal sensitive information and personal data every day. As a result, news of identity theft is becoming more and more common. In fact, the federal government recently took steps to rectify fraud and identity theft related to COVID-19 relief.²
To keep up with the high rate of identity theft, the field of cybersecurity is rapidly growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the information security analyst occupation — those who monitor their organization’s networks for security breaches and investigate when one occurs — to increase substantially in the coming years.³ However, only time will tell if expanding the profession will have any impact on curbing, or at least slowing, identity theft.
The Pandemic Brought an Unprecedented Surge in Identity Theft
As more and more financial transactions, official registrations, and general interactions have moved online, identity theft reports have increased sharply. From 2001 to 2019, identity theft reports rose steadily from roughly 86,000 to over 650,000. But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought an unprecedented surge in identity theft, likely caused by an increase in e-commerce transactions and a historic expansion to unemployment benefits aimed at mitigating the economic impact from the pandemic. The high number of people applying for government benefits during this time, combined with the rush to distribute these benefits quickly, created vulnerabilities that criminals were able to exploit. As a result, the number of identity theft reports increased over 113% from 2019 to 2020 and remain at elevated levels.
The 3-Year Change in Total Identity Theft Reports by Theft Type
While credit card fraud has long been the most common type of identity theft, in recent years, other types have been rising more quickly. New account bank fraud had the largest 3-year increase of all identity theft types, rising approximately 307% between 2019 and 2022. This type of fraud occurs when a scammer has been successfully registered by a financial institution after applying using false personal information for the sole purpose of committing fraud. With the advent of online banking and the ability to open an account without ever leaving one’s home, the opportunity for fraudsters to take advantage of new account fraud is greater than ever before.
Government benefits fraud had the second-largest increase since 2019 at over 250%. Much of this is attributable to the billions stolen from COVID-19 relief assistance programs starting in 2020. The Department of Labor estimated that approximately $46 billion was stolen by criminals via fraudulent pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits.
U.S. States Ranked by the Number of Identity Theft Reports per Capita
While identity theft occurs throughout the U.S., it’s more prevalent in certain geographic regions. Southern states lead the country with the most identity theft reports per capita, with Georgia topping the list at 55.9 reports per 10,000 residents in 2022. Louisiana and Florida came in second and third with 53.8 and 51.1 reports per 10,000 residents, respectively. Major metropolitan areas in the South — such as Miami (87.3), Atlanta (75.2), and Houston (63.0) — also lead the country in reported identity theft.
Conversely, Midwestern states tend to have lower rates of identity theft, with the majority having less than 15 identity theft reports per 10,000 residents. Louisville, Kentucky (16.1); Grand Rapids, Michigan (15.6); and Minneapolis, Minnesota (15.2) all rank among the lowest large metropolitan areas for reported identity thefts. The exceptions in the region are Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, which had 33.6, 26.3, and 18.3, respectively. South Dakota reported the lowest rate of identity theft, with just 7.5 reports per 10,000 residents last year.
For a breakdown of more than 350 metros and all 50 U.S. states, here is the report’s complete data table:
To determine the cities with the highest rates of identity theft, researchers at Upgraded Points analyzed the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2022 and the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey. The researchers ranked locations by the number of identity theft reports per 10,000 residents. In the event of a tie, the location with the larger total number of identity theft reports was ranked higher.
To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:
- Small Metros: 100,000 to 349,999 people
- Midsize Metros: 350,000 to 999,999 people
- Large Metros: More than 1,000,000 people
Identity theft is a bigger threat now than ever: With more and more interactions taking place online, fraudsters have found a seemingly infinite number of ways to hack individuals’ personal data as well as breach entire companies’ security systems.
Reports of identity theft have increased dramatically in recent years, growing nearly 200% over the past decade. While initial growth was steady, increasing year after year, reports of identity theft significantly increased between 2019 and 2020, rising over 113%. Although the number of identity theft reports decreased from 2021 to 2022, identity theft remains well above pre-pandemic levels.
More recently, certain types of identity theft are occurring more frequently than others. New bank account fraud had the largest 3-year increase of all identity theft types, rising over 300% between 2019 and 2022. Government benefits fraud and securities accounts identity theft had the second and third largest increase, rising 250% and 190%, respectively.
While identity theft occurs throughout the U.S., certain regions have higher rates of fraud than others. Southern states tend to have higher rates of identity theft, and major metropolitan areas in the South — such as Miami (87.3), Atlanta (75.2), and Houston (63.0) — also lead the country in reported identity theft. Midwest states tend to have lower rates of identity theft with Louisville, Kentucky (16.1); Grand Rapids, Michigan (15.6); and Minneapolis, Minnesota (15.2) all ranking among the lowest large metropolitan areas for reported identity thefts.
1. Identity Theft Resource Center. (2022, April 13). Identity Theft Resource Center Report: Data Breaches Increase; Victim Rates Drop in Q1 2022. https://www.idtheftcenter.org/post/data-breach-increase-14-percent-q1-2022/. Retrieved May 3, 2023
2. The White House. (2023, March 2). FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Sweeping Pandemic Anti-Fraud Proposal: Going After Systemic Fraud, Taking on Identity Theft, Helping Victims. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/03/02/fact-sheet-president-bidens-sweeping-pandemic-anti-fraud-proposal-going-after-systemic-fraud-taking-on-identity-theft-helping-victims/. Retrieved May 3, 2023
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2022, September 8). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Information Security Analysts. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-1. Retrieved May 3, 2023
Featured Image Credit: Zivica Kerkez via Shutterstock
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