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Identity Theft in the Sunshine States

By: Kristan Frend

I was recently pleased to see that the state I reside in, Minnesota finished in the bottom third of a state ranking.  Luckily the rankings weren’t about overall health (#6), high school graduation (#3), or SAT scores (#2); instead it was the Federal Trade Commission’s state identity theft complaint ranks.  Minnesota has just 49.2 complaints per 100,000 population, whereas the highest ranked state, Florida, as 114.8 complaints per 100,000 population.   The top three states leading identity theft consumer complaints (per 100,000 population) included Florida, Arizona, and California. 

 Besides warm sunshine and top-tier golf courses, what do these three states have in common?  According to the February 2011 RealtyTrac U.S. Foreclosure Market Report™, all three rank in the top 5 states for foreclosure, and two of the three (Florida and California) rank #49 and #50 in unemployment rates, according to a March 2011 report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   

On a national level unemployment rates and identity fraud incidence rates both improved from 2009 to 2010.  From 2009 to 2010, unemployment rates went from 10.0% to 9.4% while according to Javelin’s 2010 Annual Identity Fraud Survey Report, identity fraud incidence rates fell from 4.8% to 3.5%.   

While it may be inaccurate to state that economic distress causes higher rates of identity fraud, there does seem to be a natural correlation between economic downswings and fraudulent activity.   As we move further into 2011, it will be interesting to see if identity fraud incidence rates will continue to decrease as unemployment and economic outlook is on the upward swing.