Over 2.5 million people in the U.S. become victims of unauthorized credit card activity and/or identity theft every year, according to credit card review site RewardExpert. While this issue is nationwide, residents of some states are experiencing higher than average incidences. GOBankingRates reviewed the list of states most at-risk for credit card fraud and identity theft, which takes into account the incidence rates of reports for both, as well as year-over-year trends.
Keep reading to find out if your state is one of the 20 most at-risk states for unauthorized credit card activity, and learn steps to take to protect your money.
Oregon might not be the most populous state, with a population of just over 4 million, but the cases of unauthorized credit card purchases are concerning — the study shows about 105 instances of identity theft per 100,000 residents. Further, the instances of credit card fraud perpetrated using the internet were about 4.5 instances per 100,000 residents.
Incidences of credit card fraud are actually declining in Massachusetts, but it’s still happening with more frequency in the Northeast state than in much of the rest of the country. There were 547 cases of credit card fraud per 100,000 residents in the state in 2016, and 107 cases of identity theft per 100,000 residents.
18. South Carolina
South Carolina has experienced the largest increase in credit card fraud between 2015 and 2016, with a 27 percent jump between the years. There have been 701 cases of credit card fraud per 100,000 residents in the state, and the instances perpetrated using the internet were two per every 100,000 residents. Some fraud and theft could be the result of credit card skimmers.
There were 82 cases of identity theft per every 100,000 Alabama residents in 2016, and 809 total instances of credit card fraud per 100,000 residents. The state has the highest rate of credit card fraud committed using the internet, with 12 instances per 100,000 residents.
Tennessee has a population of 6.6 million, and 86 in every 100,000 of the state’s residents have been the victim of identity theft. Credit card fraud in the state has increased 14.5 percent from 2015 to 2016.
15. New York
For every 100,000 residents in New York, there have been 567 cases of credit card fraud — which is an unsettling number considering the population is over 19 million. The incidence of credit card fraud increased 8 percent in N.Y. from 2015 to 2016. It’s possible that some of the fraud reports came from people who set off their own fraud alerts.
Colorado has the second highest income per capita in the U.S. at $75,628 per year. The incidence of credit card fraud in the state is 609 reports per 100,000 residents, while the incidence of identity theft is 112 per 100,000 residents.
The incidence of credit card fraud reports decreased 6 percent in Georgia from 2015 to 2016, but there were still an alarming 1,137 instances per every 100,000 residents — one of the highest rates of credit card fraud per capita in the U.S. The rate of fraud perpetrated via the internet was three out of every 100,000 residents.
Delaware has less than 1 million residents, but credit card fraud and identity theft are still major issues in the state. There were 798 reports of credit fraud per every 100,000 Delaware residents in 2016, and 156 reports of identity theft per every 100,000 residents.
Maryland has the highest income per capita at $75,847. Reports of credit card fraud increased 8 percent from 2015 to 2016, rising to an incidence of 808 reports per every 100,000 residents.
Washington has undergone a tech boom in recent years, which could explain why the state has one of the highest rates of credit card fraud perpetrated using the internet: nine per every 100,000 residents. The incidence of credit fraud has increased about 10 percent from 2015 to 2016, and there were 555 reports of fraud per every 100,000 residents in 2016.
Illinois has one of the highest rates of identity theft in the U.S., with 138 reports of ID theft per 100,000 residents. There was also a 12 percent increase in credit card fraud between 2015 and 2016, bringing the 2016 rate to 577 cases of credit card fraud per 100,000 residents.
Arizona’s high rate of unauthorized credit card activity could be due to its relatively high number of older residents, who are more vulnerable to fraud and theft, according to RewardExpert. There were 657 reports of credit card fraud per every 100,000 residents in the Southwestern state.
The incidence of credit card fraud increases with proximity to a metropolitan area, according to RewardExpert, so Virginia’s location near Washington, D.C., could explain why it’s one of the most at-risk states. In 2016, the rate of credit card fraud was 701 reports per 100,000 residents, and the rate of identity theft was 104 reports per 100,000 residents.
Michigan has the highest rate of identity theft in the nation, affecting 176 people per every 100,000 residents. It also has the third highest rate of credit card fraud, with 1,083 reports of fraud per every 100,000 residents. Fortunately, the incidences of fraud have been decreasing in the state, dropping 5 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Texas has one of the highest rates of credit card fraud in the U.S., with 952 reports of fraud per every 100,000 residents. The frequency of fraud perpetrated using the internet is three per 100,000 residents.
Florida has the highest rate of credit card fraud per capita: 1,306 cases of fraud per every 100,000 Floridians. Believe it or not, that’s actually an improvement from the previous year. The incidence of fraud in the state dropped 14 percent from 2015 to 2016.
3. New Mexico
The average income per capita in New Mexico is on the lower end at $45,382, which means residents who are victims of credit card fraud or identity theft might be less equipped to handle the financial fallout that can follow compared to people in other states. The rate of credit card fraud in New Mexico increased 12 percent between 2015 and 2016, bringing the rate to 668 cases of fraud per every 100,000 residents.
California has one of the highest rates of identity theft in the U.S., with 140 cases of ID theft reported per every 100,000 residents. On the bright side, credit card fraud is declining, with a 5 percent drop in reports of fraud from 2015 to 2016.
It’s hard to believe that any state could have so many unauthorized credit card transactions, but blame it on the wild Vegas strip — Nevada has some of the highest rates of both credit card fraud (872 reports per 100,000 residents) and identity theft (136 reports per 100,000 residents). Living in this state is a gamble in more ways than one.
Unless otherwise noted, all state information was sourced from 2017 data provided by RewardExpert.
Simple Ways to Protect Yourself Against Unauthorized Credit Card Transactions
It’s important to note that whether you live in one of these states or somewhere else altogether, unauthorized transactions are a threat to everyone. Here is a look at four tips that could help you avoid being taken advantage of.
Utilize Your Credit Card Company’s Security Features and Tools
When choosing a credit card, look for a card that provides an extra layer of security. Many credit card companies monitor your spending behavior so that they can detect when a transaction seems out of the ordinary. If a suspicious activity occurs, the credit card company might automatically freeze your account and notify you of the activity.
Many credit card companies now offer security tools to prevent unauthorized credit card transactions as well. For example, the Regions LockIt mobile app gives users the ability to turn on and off categories of card transactions as many times as they want, and provides real-time messaging when transactions are declined due to controls set by the user.
Don’t Give Your Account Number to Anyone Over the Phone
This is especially true if you receive an unsolicited phone call asking for your credit card information. Some callers will claim you have won a vacation or other prize, and will ask for your credit card information in order to complete the transaction. Never give your credit card account number to an organization or caller you don’t know or trust.
Don’t Carry All Your Credit Cards in One Wallet
It’s best to only carry the credit card you plan on using with you. If you keep all of your credit cards in the same wallet or bag, you’re making it that much easier for someone to attain all of your sensitive information if it gets lost or stolen. Keep only one or two cards in your wallet, and leave the rest in a safe place. Additionally, consider using a secure mobile wallet app, storing your credit card information digitally and making purchases with the app at participating locations.
Review Your Credit Card Statements Each Month
Keep your receipts and compare them to your monthly statement to make sure all of the charges are correct. If you see transactions for an incorrect amount or charges you did not make, be sure to report them right away to your credit card company.
Click here to read more about how to keep more of your paycheck in your pocket.