16 states with a huge identity theft problem

How to Avoid Identity Theft

Identity theft is a big problem, and it's a growing one. The Consumer Sentinel Network (a database used by the Federal Trade Commission and a variety of agencies) received nearly 500,000 complaints about identity theft in 2015. Complaints increased about 47% from 2014 and about 69% from 2013, making it the second most common source of consumer complaints, after debt collection.

Of course, the number of complaints about identity theft only gives a partial picture of the crime's reach, because not all victims file a complaint. On top of that, plenty of victims don't even know they've had their identities stolen. That means identity theft occurred more frequently in 2015 than the 490,220 complaints indicate, likely causing plenty of credit problems along the way.

Here are the states where identity theft was most common last year, according to the complaint reports. (Note: There are some ties in the rankings, which have been notes below.)

15. Washington (tie)
Complaints per 100,000 people: 126.1
Number of complaints: 9,043

15. Oregon (tie)
Complaints per 100,000 people: 126.1
Number of complaints: 5,081

14. Arizona
Complaints per 100,000 people: 133.8
Number of complaints: 9,136

12. Ohio (tie)
Complaints per 100,000 people: 134.4
Number of complaints: 15,611

12. Wisconsin (tie)
Complaints per 100,000 people: 134.4
Number of complaints: 7,756

11. Rhode Island
Complaints per 100,000 people: 141.2
Number of complaints: 1,491

10. California
Complaints per 100,000 people: 141.3
Number of complaints: 55,305

9. New Hampshire
Complaints per 100,000 people: 142
Number of complaints: 1,890

8. Texas
Complaints per 100,000 people: 144.3
Number of complaints: 39,630

7. Georgia
Complaints per 100,000 people: 149.1
Number of complaints: 15,230

6. Michigan
Complaints per 100,000 people: 158.1
Number of complaints: 15,684

5. Illinois
Complaints per 100,000 people: 158.7
Number of complaints: 20,414

4. Maryland
Complaints per 100,000 people: 183.2
Number of complaints: 11,006

3. Florida
Complaints per 100,000 people: 217.4
Number of complaints: 44,063

2. Connecticut
Complaints per 100,000 people: 225
Number of complaints: 8,078

1. Missouri
Complaints per 100,000 people: 364.3
Number of complaints: 22,164

Not only is it annoying to discover someone has stolen your identity, it's costly. Thieves can do serious damage to your finances and credit scores, and the more information they stole, the more of a mess they can make. Dealing with identity theft tends to be a bit easier if you notice it quickly. You may want to make a habit of looking out for signs of identity theft, which is one of the many reasons to regularly review your credit. You can get a free credit report summary, updated every 30 days, on Credit.com.

Other than freezing your credit or putting a fraud alert on your credit files to prevent new-account fraud, there's not much you can do to stop an identity thief from abusing your information, so it's important you know how to respond if it happens to you. Some of the first things you need to do is file a police report describing the crime and try to correct any related errors on your credit reports or accounts.

Related: Money-saving online shopping hacks

Money-saving online shopping hacks
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16 states with a huge identity theft problem

1. Clear your browser history

Some retailers might sneakily increase prices based on your browsing patterns and demand - so make sure to always clear your history and cookies before shopping! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

2. Use an alternate email address

When you log in to a retailer's site with a new email address, retailers will often welcome you as a new customer with exciting new promotions and discounts. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Note price changes throughout the week

Another pro tip: Prices and deals can fluctuate based on the day of the week. For instance, if you're purchasing a flight, monitor prices for around a week to see if they take a dip on any particular day before purchasing. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

4. Let items linger in your cart

Here's a hack: Add items to your cart, but let them sit for 24 hours before purchasing. The retailer might attempt to lure you back with additional discounts.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

5. Check out multiple sites

Do some research! Don't settle for the first price you see - poke around on a search engine and find the best deal. 

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6. Bargain with customer service

Use customer service to your advantage. If you ask (politely!) about an expired coupon, you'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by an extension or new code! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

7. Don't purchase impulsively

Try this shopping hack - don't buy that shiny, new toy right away. Step away for a few hours, and if you find yourself itching to go back and click 'purchase', then you know you won't regret your investment!

Photo credit: FogStock

8. Avoid shipping fees

Take advantage of free shipping! If you are a few dollars below the free shipping price point, add a low-cost filler item you need anyway (like socks!) and make the math work out in your favor. 

Photo credit: Alamy


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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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