Who Faces the Greatest Risks?

Who Faces the Greatest Risks?

Several obstacles hamper attempts to derive accu- rate estimates of the frequency of these thefts and the profile of those who are targeted most often. First, some people do not yet know that impostors have assumed their identities. Second, some victims are not aware that the FTC has been designated as the national clearinghouse for complaints. Third, certain individuals and businesses are unwilling to report their personal financial problems to law enforcement agencies and government hotlines for an assortment of reasons. For example, businesses might fear that disclosures will harm their reputa- tions, while individuals might decide that the time it will take will not be worth their trouble.

One of the earlier attempts to derive a profile of the average victim determined that the typical

age was 42, the place of residence was a large metropolitan area, and the amount of time it took the person to detect the fraud was 14 months. Seniors were targeted less frequently, and African- Americans tended to suffer more than other groups from check fraud and from theft of utility and telephone services (see Newman, 2004).

But more recent studies cast doubt on the con- tinuing accuracy of this preliminary statistical portrait. The NCVS provides more details about differential risks. As for age, the two intervals that experienced lower rates were those between 18 and 24, and also those over 65. People between the ages of 35 and 49 suffered the most (8 percent per year in 2012). As for race and ethnicity, whites experienced higher rates and blacks and Hispanics lower rates. As for sex, males and females were victimized at roughly the same rate. When it comes to social class, the survey found that families earning $75,000 or more were targeted more often than those in lower income brackets (Harrell and Langton, 2013).

As with other types of crimes, where people live plays a major role in shaping differential risks. Table 4.9 presents a ranking of the five worst states and the five safest states in 2013. Many more reports

T A B L E 4.9 States Where Residents Faced the Highest and Lowest Risks of Identity Theft, 2013

Rank 2013 State Victimization Rate per 100,000

Inhabitants 2010 Victimization Rate per 100,000

Inhabitants 2013

1 Florida 115 193 2 Georgia 97 134 3 California 102 105 4 Michigan 70 97 5 Nevada 96 97 6 Maryland 83 96 7 Arizona 103 91 8 Texas 96 88 9 New York 85 87 10 Illinois Lowest risks 81 86 46 Iowa 38 40 47 Maine 32 39 48 Hawaii 43 38 49 South Dakota 25 33 50 North Dakota 30 32

NOTES: Based on complaints received by the FTC from individuals and participating law enforcement agencies during 2010 and 2013. Many incidents were not reported; complaints were not checked for credibility.

SOURCE: Federal Trade Commission Sentinel Network (FTC, 2011, 2014).

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of being impersonated came from Florida, Georgia, and California (over 100 per 100,000 residents) than from other states. Risks were much lower, about about 40 per 100,00 or even less than that, in Iowa, Maine, Hawaii, and South and North Dakota, according to the Sentinel Network admin- istered by the FTC (2014).

The geographic factor can be fine-tuned further by focusing on specific cities. The 10 metropolitan areas where residents filed the most complaints and therefore presumably faced the greatest dangers of being impersonated were Miami–Fort Lauderdale– West Palm Beach, Florida (with a sky-high rate of more than 340 victims per 100,000 inhabitants); Columbus, Georgia; Naples-Marcos Island, Florida; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Tallahassee, Florida; Cape Coral–Fort Myers, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Port Saint Lucie, Florida; Beckley, West Virginia; and Tampa–St. Petersburg, Florida. As for entire regions, people living in the South and West needed to be more vigilant than those residing in the Northeast and Midwest, according to the FTC’s (2014) state and city rankings, which are volatile and can vary substantially from year to year.

It appears that spending habits, lifestyle choices, and decisions about where to reside—in other words, attitudes and behaviors—determine, to some degree, whether an individual’s identity will be misappropriated by some thief or hacker.

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