It’s no secret that Florida has been granted the dubious distinction of being the state with the highest incidence per capita of identity theft cases for the past few years.In fact, not only is a Florida region—the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area—the top metro area in the country for ID theft crimes, four of the state’s cities were in the top ten for the entire country in 2014, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s report. That’s down only one city from 2013 when Florida had five of the country’s top ten metropolitan areas for identity theft.

What makes Florida such a target? Experts have weighed in on a number of possible contributing factors:

  1. As a top vacation spot, credit card fraud may be harder to detect due to an influx of people from out of state who make hotel, meal, and souvenir purchases via credit card.
  2. With a higher than usual number of part-time residents, Florida residents’ addresses tend to be more transient.
  3. The state’s open records policies make it easier than in other states to find out personal identifiable information on residents.
  4. The higher percentage of senior citizens making up the population means there’s a demographic of consumers who are stereotypically less tech savvy and more prone to becoming victims of sophisticated identity theft scams.

A new initiative in conjunction with Hodges University in Naples is working at fighting the statistics while helping the residents throughout the state of Florida prevent and recover from identity theft crimes. The Identity Theft Institute, which kicked off earlier this month, will serve as a resource for victims as well as offer updates and workshops to citizens across the state. The goals of these small workshops will be to educate consumers on everyday safety techniques such as securing smartphones and properly disposing of sensitive documents, among many other lessons. Workshops will be led by the Institute’s Director Carrie Kerskie, a veteran in the identity theft community.  Kerskie, who is a private investigator, has both published books on identity theft and related topics and runs an identity theft restoration and investigation company.

The organization will also focus on business identity theft, a much less understood type of identity theft. Besides producing research on the topic, they will help businesses that have been affected by identity theft, data breaches, and other related crimes. In addition to these services, which will be incredibly beneficial in the region, the Institute is also preparing to conduct research in other, more traditional, identity theft problems.  The information gathered from these studies will be used to affect change in legislation and corporate practices. Several entities will come together to benefit from the information gathering and educational resources the Institute has to offer, including the banking sector, medical establishments, law enforcement, and more. For more information on the North Naples organization, check out an article by June Fletcher of the Naples Daily News on the opening of the Identity Theft Institute. You may also learn more about the Institute on their website.