Fraud can happen anywhere, but certain places seem to have it worse than others. The Federal Trade Commission recently published its annual report on consumer complaints, and it includes rankings for cities with the most fraud reports, and in a separate list, the most identity theft reports. Did your hometown make the top 10 list?
Florida dominated the identity theft list: Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach was No. 1 with 316 identity theft complaints per 100,000 residents. In fact, it was a runaway leader. No. 2 was Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, with just a hair over 200 per 100,000.
Three other Florida locales made the top 10 identity theft complaints list — Tallahassee at No. 4, Naples at No. 5, and Jacksonville at No. 10. It should come as no surprise that Florida was also the No. 1 state for identity theft complaints. And this is no short-term issue. Miami was also No. 1 for ID theft last year; Naples, Tallahassee, Port St. Lucie and Tampa all made the top 10 list in 2013.
Largest Metropolitan Areas for Identity Theft-Related Consumer Complaints
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Fla.
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.
- St. Louis, Mo.-Ill.
- Tallahassee, Fla.
- Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla.
- Olympia-Tumwater, Wash.
- Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.
- Pueblo, Colo.
- Jacksonville, Fla.
- Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Mich.
As for the generic category of “fraud and other” complaints, which excludes identity theft reports, Florida didn’t fare quite as badly. Only Homosassa Springs at No. 2 cracked the top 10, with Jacksonville hitting 11. Who was No. 1? Little Sierra Vista, Ariz., home to Army base Ft. Huachuca, near the Mexico border. It jumped from No. 8 in 2013, and the number of complaints per 100,000 nearly doubled from last year.
Mayor Rick Mueller of Sierra Vista replied “no comment” when asked about the city’s fraud complaint rate.
The “other fraud” top 10 list is much more diverse, hitting all regions of the country.
Largest Metropolitan Areas for Fraud and Other-Related Consumer Complaints
- Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz.
- Homosassa Springs, Fla.
- Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio
- Bellingham, Wash.
- Santa Fe, N.M.
- Dover, Del.
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va
- Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev.
- Prescott, Ariz.
This notorious top 10 list is remarkably consistent — nine out of the top 10 cities were in the list last year. The only new entrant was Steubenville, near the West Virginia border, which was ranked 11 in 2013.
While you can’t entirely prevent identity theft from happening to you, you can take measures to reduce your risk. That means it’s all the more important to stay on top of your financial data to look for signs of fraud. Check your financial statements regularly (every day, even) for unauthorized charges or activities, and check your credit reports for fraudulent accounts or other inaccuracies. There are also services that allow you to monitor your credit — doing so can alert you to changes — good and bad. You can get your free credit report summary, updated every month on Credit.com, to watch for problems so you can address them as soon as possible.