Coronavirus-related scams have proliferated in recent weeks. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some businesses have already been reprimanded for misleading claims around coronavirus treatments and cures. But not all scams are related to false advertising. Other common scams include fraudulent online vendors claiming to sell in-demand goods, fake charities soliciting donations, robocalls pushing phony products, and phishing emails designed to trick victims into sharing personal information. One obvious consequence for victims of these scams is losing money. Another major threat is identity theft, which has been on the rise for the past few years.
In 2019, the FTC received 650,572 identity theft reports—about 198 per 100,000 residents. These numbers represent an astonishing 46 percent increase since 2018 and nearly a 100 percent increase over the past five years. Coinciding with the rise in identity theft reports is an increase in data breaches—incidents in which an individual’s name and private or confidential information is exposed.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported 1,473 data breaches in 2019, over nine times the number in 2005 when the ITRC first started tracking data breaches. While not all data breaches lead to identity theft, a larger number of data breaches means that more Americans have their personal information exposed, increasing the likelihood that identity theft will occur.
The FTC classifies identity theft incidents into several different categories: credit card fraud, loan or lease fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, employment or tax-related fraud, government documents or benefits fraud, and other identity theft. In 2019 the three most common types of identity theft were credit card fraud, loan or lease fraud, and phone or utilities fraud. Notably, there were 271,823 reports of credit card fraud in 2019, an increase of over 260 percent since 2015.
While Americans of all ages are at risk for identity theft, the FTC received the most identity theft reports for people aged 30-39. According to the ITRC, millennials are more willing to share their personal data online and less fearful of their information being compromised than other age groups—a combination that makes them especially vulnerable. While children and older adults are also high-risk, it is possible that many instances of identity theft for these groups go unreported or unnoticed.
To determine the U.S. states where you are most likely to get your identity stolen, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review site for commercial auto and workers compensation insurance, analyzed the latest data from the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network 2019 Data Book. The researchers ranked states according to the number of identity theft reports per 100K population.
Besides numbers of identity theft reports, researchers also calculated the total number of identity theft reports in 2019, change in identity theft reports from 2018 to 2019, and the most over-indexed type of identity theft—the category of identity theft that exceeded its respective national share by the greatest amount. Regardless of location, it’s important for residents to stay vigilant about scams that could result in identity theft, especially during a crisis like COVID-19.
The analysis found that North Carolina recorded 18,584 identity theft reports in 2019. For every 100,000 residents, North Carolina experienced the 14th most identity theft reports among all U.S. states. Here is a summary of the data for North Carolina:
- Identity theft reports per 100K population: 179
- Total number of identity theft reports 2019: 18,584
- Year-over-year change in identity theft reports: 61.9%
- Most over-indexed form of identity theft: Loan or Lease Fraud
Here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Identity theft reports per 100K population: 198
- Total number of identity theft reports 2019: 650,572
- Year-over-year change in identity theft reports: 46.4%