Home Report: Virginia ranks as ninth most vulnerable state to identity theft, fraud

Report: Virginia ranks as ninth most vulnerable state to identity theft, fraud

Rebecca Barnabi
Arlington Virginia
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The MOVEit data breach impacted more than 7 million Delta Dental of California clients.

WalletHub released its report on 2024’s States Most Vulnerable to Identity Theft & Fraud.

The personal finance website determined where Americans are most vulnerable to fraud and identity theft by comparing the 50 states and Washington, D.C. across 14 key metrics. Data includes identity theft complaints per capita and average loss amount due to fraud.

Washington, D.C. has the most vulnerability in the United States, followed by Delaware, Florida, Nevada and Georgia. Maryland is No. 7 and Virginia is No. 9.

The least vulnerable states, however, are Kansas, Rhode Island, Iowa, New Mexico and Montana.

“Regardless of whether you live in one of the most vulnerable states, protecting yourself against identity theft and fraud is incredibly important for your financial safety,” WalletHub Analyst Cassandra Happe said. “Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to guard yourself, including monitoring your credit and non-credit accounts regularly, being careful who you give your personal information to and making sure your devices don’t get accessed by other people.”

Every state struggles with identity theft and fraud, but each also has its own challenges. The highest ratio of individuals arrested for fraud per capita is in Delaware. Florida was one of the only states where identity theft complaints actually increased in 2022 by 1.75 percent compared to 2021, when most states had fairly significant decreases. The Sunshine State’s high population of seniors likely contributes to its vulnerability. Nevada lacks a cybersecurity task force, and Georgia has the highest number of identity theft complaints and the second-highest number of fraud complaints per 100,000 in the nation.

According to Happe, a staggering 1,747 fraud complaints per 100,000 residents was reported in D.C. in 2022.

“It’s worrying that the home of the federal government also happens to be the area most vulnerable to identity theft and fraud,” Happe said.

She added that a reason for D.C.’s vulnerability is a lack of laws to protect consumers when it comes to data disposal, phishing and spyware.

“There’s a bit of irony to the fact that the place where all lawmakers meet hasn’t passed these important laws for its own residents,” Happe said.

WalletHub offers tips to protect your identity:

  • Monitor your important information: Regularly look at your credit accounts (e.g. credit cards, lines of credit, loans), non-credit accounts (e.g. checking and savings, IRA and money market accounts), and credit reports for irregularities and report them if they arise. Pay attention to any fraud notifications sent by your financial institutions.
  • Protect your devices: Don’t install anything on your computer that you didn’t actively search for, and don’t click on any links that you’re unsure where they lead. Avoid public computers and Wi-Fi, and install a VPN for protection. Only use secure websites, enable two-factor authentication and change your passwords regularly.
  • Protect your documents: Consider putting a lock on your mailbox so no one can steal the contents. Destroy old documents with personal information you no longer need. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place at home (not in your wallet) and keep photocopies of the items that are in your wallet.
  • Use credit cards: All major credit card networks guarantee $0 liability for fraudulent purchases, so using a credit card for most of your spending helps keep you safe. If you notice anything amiss with your credit card account, report it right away so it can get investigated and you can get a new card. Destroy your old card whenever you’re issued a new one.
  • Consider premium identity theft protection: While there are plenty of things you can do to protect your identity on your own, you can raise your protection to the next level with professional services. Premium identity theft protection can boost your safety with ID theft insurance, expert help resolving your problems, dark web monitoring to make sure your info doesn’t pop up in bad places, bank account monitoring and more.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.