As the April 17th tax deadline looms, the habitual procrastinators among us have, perhaps unknowingly, put themselves at increased risk of identity theft. There were nearly 63,000 reported cases of tax-related identity theft alone in 2017. One of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of a criminal using your personal information to claim your tax return is to file as early as possible.
Identity theft is a broad category that covers a range of crimes, including tax fraud. Generally, identity theft is defined as the third party use of an individual’s identifying information, such as social security number or credit card number, to commit fraud or theft. Identity theft can take the form of utilities fraud, loan or lease fraud, government benefits fraud, and credit card fraud.
As the IRS and financial institutions have stepped up efforts to combat identity theft, the number of reported cases in the United States has fallen over the last two years. There were 371,061 reported cases of all forms of identity theft in 2017, down from 399,222 in 2016 and from the 490,226 known incidents in 2015.
One’s likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft appears to depend heavily on place of residence as the incidence of identity theft ranges considerably across the United States. South Dakota has the lowest incidence of identity theft, with just 46 reported cases for every 100,000 residents. In other states, however, identity theft is more than three times as common as in South Dakota.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book to identify the states with the most and least identity theft.