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Study: Idahoans less vulnerable to Identity theft

by SHOLEH PATRICK
| December 14, 2021 1:00 AM

While we shouldn’t let our guards down, it’s reassuring to know the latest ranking marks Idaho very low-risk compared to other states when it comes to identity theft.

Modern man has become so accustomed to entering personal information online or digitally, making us more vulnerable to such crime than in the days of paper records. Personal data breaches in 2021 already surpassed 2020’s, including big companies such as T-Mobile and Facebook.

In fact, social media is a huge facilitator of identity theft increase, according to experts consulted by financial site WalletHub. Even seemingly innocuous information such as favorite pet or high school names can allow thieves to answer security questions at bank sites, for example.

“Social media increases the chance of ID theft by creating an atmosphere of undeserved trust... On social media, people are willing to share personal information with people they have never met, or (who) are false identities,” said Professor Alan Katerinsky of the University at Buffalo.

WalletHub’s report “2021’s States Most Vulnerable to Identity Theft & Fraud” compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 14 metrics, including number of incidents, losses, arrests, and protections. The good news: Idaho ranks 49 out of 51, low meaning least vulnerable.

The bad news: Idaho ranked first, or worst, when it comes to added statutory protections. We could use more legal protection at the state level.

The state ranked most vulnerable to identity theft and fraud is neighboring Washington, followed by Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island and Delaware. Iowa was ranked 51st – or best and least vulnerable. Next-best was Connecticut, Idaho, West Virginia and Montana (at 47th).

Idaho’s identity theft and fraud complaints per capita are low, ranking 45th. Average losses ranked well at 32, with arrest rates hitting the middle at 26th.

However, Idaho ranked first (as in worst) in legal protections relative to other states in three primary areas: data disposal, a passport program, and security freezes for minors. Some states have data disposal laws which require businesses to destroy, rather than store, unnecessary personal data they collect.

An identity theft passport program helps victims reclaim stolen identities with a “passport” stamp – typically placed on a driver’s license after being victimized - presentable to law enforcement. Our family had a personal experience with this need, as our son’s identity was stolen and he was mistakenly arrested for crimes the thief committed.

Thanks to a 2018 federal law, parents and guardians can freeze credit for children younger than 16. Thieves sometimes fraudulently obtain credit by blending a child’s Social Security number with a different name, address and birthdate, a practice called synthetic identity theft. It’s seldom caught quickly because parents rarely have a reason to check their children’s credit records. Freezing a child’s credit helps prevent it.

See the full report at https://wallethub.com/edu/states-where-identity-theft-and-fraud-are-worst/17549.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Email Sholeh@cdapress.com.