Special Report

9 States With the Most Identity Theft Complaints

9. Arizona
> Identity theft complaints per 100,000:
96.0
> Total complaints per 100,000 population: 562.1 (16th highest)
> Total complaints: 37,836 (14th highest)
> Average amount paid: $2,581 (9th highest)

There were 6,460 complaints of identity theft, or 96 per 100,000 residents, in Arizona last year, the ninth highest frequency nationwide. There are a variety of ways to steal a person’s identity. In Arizona, government documents or benefits fraud accounted for the most identity theft complaints, 31%. All forms of fraud, including identity theft, were also quite costly for Arizona. Among complaints in which an amount paid was reported, scams cost an average of $2,581, the ninth-largest such figure nationwide. In 2008, the state passed a law which classified seeking employment without legitimate documentation as identity theft, helping local authorities crack down on illegal immigration. However, the law may conflict with federal statutes which affirm no attempt to seek employment is illegal regardless of immigration status. The law came under attack in January after an organization of immigrant advocate groups sued Arizona and several counties in the state.

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8. Nevada
> Identity theft complaints per 100,000:
100.2
> Total complaints per 100,000 population: 773.2 (3rd highest)
> Total complaints: 21,952 (25th lowest)
> Average amount paid: $4,296 (the highest)

Nevadans were among the most likely identity theft victims, with more than one identity theft complaint for every 1,000 people in the state — the eighth-highest rate in the country. Other sorts of fraud were also very common, with 773.2 fraud and other complaints reported per 100,000 people, the third-highest proportion nationwide. And these scams were expensive, costing Nevada fraud victims $4,296 last year, the largest such figure among all states. A low college attainment rate and relatively high debt levels may have made many residents more vulnerable to identity theft and other types of fraud. About 22.5% of Nevada adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, nearly the lowest rate nationwide. Also, the average Nevadan had about $18,462 in auto debt and $182,488 in mortgage debt, both among the highest levels in the country. In addition to frequent fraud-related criminal activity, Nevada also reported 591 violent crimes per 100,000 state residents, the third-highest rate nationwide.

7. California
> Identity theft complaints per 100,000:
100.5
> Total complaints per 100,000 population: 644.6 (8th highest)
> Total complaints: 250,138 (the highest)
> Average amount paid: $2,890 (4th highest)

There were 171,379 total fraud complaints in California, 38,982 of them were for identity theft — both numbers were the highest among all states. Government documents and benefits fraud, together with credit card scams, accounted for about half of California’s identity theft complaints. The state had nearly 500,000 social security recipients in 2013, the highest number in the country, which could partly account for the prevalence of fraudulent government documents. Residents also had a relatively high average credit card debt, at about $4,870, as of the beginning of 2014, and the second-highest average mortgage debt in the country, $288,990. Fraud was also costly to state residents, with 80,000 incidents reporting payments averaging $2,890 — the fourth-largest amount in the country.