The Internet is an extraordinarily powerful tool, but its infinite nature also makes it a place of paradox.
For every ounce of personal freedom the medium offers, it requires an exchange of personal information. Digital-minded criminals exploit this, and are increasingly using the data to ensnare unsuspecting victims in years of financial turmoil.
A record-breaking 16.7 million identities were stolen last year alone, with victims losing out on a collective $16.8 billion.
Identity theft has been consistently on the rise for at least two years, thanks in large part to the widespread availability of easily-mined private information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, and even credit card numbers.
A record-breaking 16.7 million identities were stolen last year alone, with victims losing out on a collective $16.8 billion. Experts say thieves continue to show evidence of adapting to new defense measures against the crime, including microchip-equipped credit and debit cards.
But the issue is a threat in the physical world, with statistics proving some geographic locations more susceptible than others.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released its latest batch of numbers showing which states reported the highest number of identity theft cases—and why.
Keep reading to see which 10 states were particularly big targets for the crime.
The Grand Canyon State is famous for its hot and dry climate, which also attracts many retirement-aged residents hoping to get a break from the worries of weather.
But according to the FTC, the older population may have made the state more susceptible to identity theft. Older adults are at a higher risk of identity theft, as they’re often targets of very specific schemes to extract valuable personal information.
Still, the plots must have worked on plenty of younger residents, too. All told, Arizona filed 119 reports of identity theft for every 100,000 residents—or 8,300 total cases—last year.
The southern state has become something of a modern-day money capital, thanks to huge credit bureaus like Equifax making a home in Atlanta.
Still, the city’s close relationship to the establishment may have made it—and Georgia, in general—a prime target for identity theft, after a massive data breach left millions of Equifax customers vulnerable to the crime.
Last year alone, Georgians filed more than 12,500 reports of identity theft—coming out to 120 cases for every 100,000 residents—with the offense representing 12% of all consumer complaints in the state in 2017.
It may be the smallest state in the nation, but Rhode Island has an outsized number of identity theft cases.
Last year, 1,300 reports of the crime were made, representing 18% of all consumer complaints registered with the state.
And while Rhode Island’s large number of wealthy residents may make the state an especially alluring target for hackers, the numbers could be skewed thanks to the area’s tiny overall population. In all, 123 cases of identity theft were reported for every 100,000 residents.
The Midwestern area is home to powerhouse city Chicago, whose movers and shakers may have made an especially big mark on the Internet. Unfortunately, this also means leaving longer data trails for hackers to follow.
Overall, the state suffered 124 identity theft cases for every 100,000 residents, representing a total of 15,800 reports—or 19% of all consumer complaints to the state last year.
The First State’s small population may once again make the number of cases look big in comparison.
All told, more than 1,200 reports of identity theft were filed in Delaware last year—representing 126 crimes for every 100,000 residents and 14% of all consumer complaints in 2017.
Still, the area is home to a bustling summertime tourist scene along its shore, which may invite more opportunities for potential thieves to swipe credit card information from travelers.
Las Vegas may be America’s Playground, but clearly not everyone there likes to play by the rules.
The gambling town attracts a potent mix of tourists ready to take some risks, alcohol to cloud their better judgement, and street-smart criminals always on the lookout for opportunity.
And luck was not on the side of the 3,800 who claimed identity theft there last year. The number represents 128 reports for every 100,000 Nevada residents, and 14% of consumer complaints to the state.
It may be named after a queen, but Maryland received no princely behavior from identity thieves last year.
The state saw 129 reports of the crime for every 100,000 residents, totaling 7,800 cases overall and comprising 16% of all consumer complaints in 2017.
With a number of well-off enclaves and a large amount of high-ranking government officials calling the state home, it may have represented too much of a temptation for criminals looking for top-notch targets.
The Golden State has a huge population, a huge amount of wealth, and a venerable galaxy of stars residing within its boundaries.
It also had more than 55,400 reports of identity theft last year—possibly thanks to all the high-level targets, or just the high number of targets in general.
All told, 20% of consumer complaints filed in the state last year related to the subject, and California counted 140 cases of identity theft for every 100,000 residents.
Like Arizona, Florida is home to a large number of retirees.
Like California, it has a large population.
And like Rhode Island and Maryland, it has several major pockets of wealth.
All told, the Sunshine State made a tempting mark for identity thieves last year, with 31,200 total cases reported—which comprised 13% of all consumer complaints in 2017 and represented 149 reports of identity theft for every 100,000 residents.
The Great Lakes State has long lingered near the top of the list of identity theft complaints, but last year, it had more reported cases per capita than any other state in the nation.
All together, 15,000 Michiganders filed identity theft reports in 2017, representing 151 cases for every 100,000 residents and 17% of total consumer complaints.
While it’s unclear why the state continues to remain such a top target for digital criminals, a Detroit Free Press report from 2016 posited at least one explanation: the state’s outsize number of elderly and immigrant residents, as both populations are typically more susceptible to such scams.
A more recent report by a state CBS affiliate also noted that those who file taxes late are at a particular risk for the crime.
Regardless of the reason, however, Michiganders—and all U.S. residents—may want to start considering their options for greater protection.