Florida is the number one state (followed by Georgia and California) in the nation in terms of identity theft complaints per capita according to a recent FTC study.  In 2013 the FTC recorded 37,720 consumer complaints for identity theft from Florida, or 804 per 100,000 people.

Additionally, the Miami – Ft. Lauderdale – West Palm Beach metropolitan area ranked first in 2013 amongst the top 50 largest metro areas and ten of the top 11 metro areas are in the State. Experts postulate that the amount of tourism and an abnormally high number of part time residents contribute to the rates
of identity theft complaints.  When people are vacationing, they’re more likely to use credit cards on things like dining out, hotel rooms, car rentals, and tickets for shows and activities. Part time residents usually have a residence in another state they live in part of the year.  During their absence, identity thieves can take advantage by adopting their identity for months at a time without a victim’s knowledge.

Another potential theory to explain the epidemic in Florida is its appeal as a place to retire.  The older populations have historically shown themselves to be generally less technology savvy than some younger demographics, which puts them at a greater inherent risk for these types of crimes. The FTC has several recommendations for limiting one’s risk of exposure to this type of crime.  When using airport or hotel WiFi, make sure you are very cautious with what activities you conduct online.  Thieves can potentially access your machine remotely if you’re connected to an unsecured network.  You might even consider using a VPN to ensure that your laptop or tablet is secure when surfing the internet from these public types of access points.

Additionally, be very careful about what documentation and personal information you carry with you as you travel. Never carry your Social Security Number on your person or in your vehicle unless you have immediate need of it.  If you have the ability to view your bank and credit card statements online, pick a time that’s convenient during your travel and spend a few minutes reviewing them to make sure there’s nothing suspicious going on.  Don’t wait until you get home from vacation if at all possible.  Traveling makes abnormal bank and credit activity harder for financial institutions to react to because there will likely be purchases made across different cities or states.

Be wary of who you hand your credit information to as you travel.  If at all possible, pre-book your activities or concerts or hotels online before you actually arrive.  And because it is tax season, remember that the earlier you file your taxes the better in terms of mitigating your risk for tax fraud.  The IRS generally accepts the first return they receive from any particular social security number, so the best way to prevent a thief from claiming your refund is to beat him to the punch and file your return first.

If you would like more information on tips to protect yourself from identity theft, please call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at (888)-400-5530 or visit the website at www.idtheftcenter.org.

“Florida Once Again Tops the Nation in Identity Theft Incidence Rates According to Most Recent FTC Study was written by Matt Davis.  Matt is Director of Business Alliances at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.