According to the FTC, in 2008, 9.93 million people in America experienced identity theft. Identity theft in America is on the rise and victims spend an average of 175 hours fixing their credit problems. Are you more at risk because of where you live?
Identity theft in America, according to Bestplaces.net, is most common in cities noted for their wealth and cosmopolitan attitude. In these cities, the pace of life is much faster and its citizens spend more time on the Internet, eating out, and making credit card purchases. San Francisco and San Jose are the top two cities in America in terms of identity thefts per capita. Jennifer Dawes, a student at the San Francisco Art Institute, left her purse in the car while she ran up to a fellow student’s apartment to pick up some notes from a class she had missed. She was gone from her car no more than ten minutes, but in that time, her car window was smashed and her purse stolen. This is a common occurrence in the San Francisco Bay area. Other cities also prone to identity theft include Denver, Seattle, San Diego, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
The least risky cities are typically slower and, in general, its citizens have a more laid back lifestyle. Citizens of these cities are less likely to make online purchases and tend to pay cash more often for their transactions. In addition, these cities are not known for the trendsetting lifestyle. According to the over 80 metrics used by Bestplaces.net in this study, the safest cities surveyed are Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Louisville, and Birmingham when it comes to identity theft in America.
There are other common factors amongst cities that are more prone to identity theft in America. Cities that have a high substance abuse rate are more prone to identity theft. This makes perfect sense as drug abusers are usually desperate to raise cash to fund their lifestyle. There is an especially high correlation between cities with high methamphetamine use and identity theft.
Jennifer Dawes, the art student in San Francisco, received a phone call, a few months after her purse was stolen, from a credit card company requesting payment on a credit card. Jennifer did not have a credit card from this particular company. Further research showed the thief who stole her purse used her social security number, address, and phone number to open up two credit card accounts and a cell phone account. Cities with police departments thinned by budget cuts are also prone to more identity theft as the police cannot keep up with the number of identity theft complaints.
Living In a Risky City
For those who live in a risky city, there are a few steps to take to ensure your safety. As Jennifer learned, do not leave your purse or wallet in your car, even for a few minutes. In addition, get a copy of your free yearly credit report and look for credit accounts and requests that do not appear familiar. If you ever have your wallet stolen, be sure to notify your credit card companies, bank, and one of the three credit bureaus. Had Jennifer contacted one of the credit bureaus immediately and had a fraud alert placed on her credit report, she would have prevented the fraudulent accounts from being opened in the first place.
Identity theft in America shows no signs of slowing down. By staying vigilant, especially if you live in a high-risk city, you can avoid becoming an identity theft victim.