Which States Are Most Vulnerable to ID Theft and Cybercrime?

A recent survey ranked the states where you are most and least likely to suffer at the hands of cybercriminals.

by Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press / October 23, 2017

(TNS) — Michigan ranks among the worst states for identity theft and fraud, a new analysis by a personal finance website shows.

The report by WalletHub put Michigan at No. 6, behind California, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Florida and Georgia, and just ahead of Nevada, Texas, New York and Connecticut.

The Michigan Attorney General's Office, which is charged with protecting consumers, suggested that identity theft and fraud is likely not as bad in the state as the report suggests.

"It could be underreported in other states," Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said, challenging the report's results. "The more people in a state, the more likely you are to be up at the top."

"But," she added, "the attorney general is not taking this lightly."

October has been designated National Cyber Security Awareness Month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

WalletHub, which is based in Washington, D.C., compared all 50 states and the nation's capital this week using a data that looked at identity theft, fraud and public policy aimed at keeping personal information out of the hands of thieves.

While Michigan ranked No. 6 overall, it was No. 8 specifically for identity theft, No. 12 for fraud, and No. 10 for public policy.

Michigan was No. 2 for the most identity theft complaints per capita, behind Washington, D.C., and ahead of Florida, and No. 4 for the most fraud complaints per capita, behind, Washington, D.C., Florida, and Georgia and ahead of Texas.

"Equifax has proven that absolutely no one is immune to cybercrime," the report said. "In September 2017, the credit bureau announced that it had fallen victim to one of the biggest data breaches in recent history."

Moreover, the WalletHub report said: "Even credit bureaus, government agencies, and financial institutions — the organizations consumers trust and expect to treat their confidential information with utmost care and security — cannot take enough precautions to prevent such attacks."

Earlier this month, Equifax announced that 2.5 million more consumers were impacted by the breach than originally thought, bringing the total number of Michiganders with potentially compromised information to 4.6 million.

Read more:

IRS: Tax refund fraudsters already had much of that Equifax stolen data

To raise awareness of identity theft, the state attorney general's office is holding two free seminars:

  • From 12:05 to 12:50 p.m. Friday at 525 West Ottawa Street, Lansing, in the G. Mennen Williams Auditorium.
  • From 12:05 to 12:50 p.m. Wednesday at 3068 West Grand Blvd., Detroit, in Room L150.

Still, the WalletHub report warned:

"While the federal government and various businesses in recent years have taken more aggressive measures to build up our defenses, criminal strategies continue to evolve and grow in sophistication, keeping consumers vulnerable to identity theft and fraud."

Identity theft tips

To avoid identity theft and fraud:

  • Use strong passwords for financial accounts. Often your email becomes the username. An easy-to-figure-out password makes you vulnerable to hacking.
  • Keep your information up to date.
  • Seek credit monitoring to stay up to date on your credit report.
  • Don't open emails you don't recognize. Doing so might allow hackers to install software on your computer or mobile device that allows them to collect personal information.
  • Be careful who you give information to: Hackers use schemes, such as pretending to be your bank or credit card company, to get your account numbers and passwords.

©2017 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.