Safest U.S. states for identity theft and fraud: Montana, Arkansas

Residents of Montana and Arkansas experience less identity theft — or other types of fraud — than the rest of the country.

That’s according to a new report from personal finance website WalletHub, which ranks all 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C. based on how frequently their residents were victimized by identity theft and fraud crimes last year, and how much money they lost to fraud, on average.

Montana residents were least vulnerable to identity theft and other types of fraud — recording the second-fewest identity theft complaints per capita in 2021, with just 106 complaints per 100,000 residents, according to the report’s analysis of Federal Trade Commission data.

Those victims also reported losing the second-lowest amount of money due to identity theft, on average.

By comparison, Rhode Island recorded the most identity theft complaints per capita, with 2,857 reports per 100,000 residents in 2021, according to FTC data.

Here are the seven least vulnerable states for identity theft and fraud, based on WalletHub’s rankings:

  1. Montana
  2. Arkansas
  3. Indiana
  4. Maine 
  5. Wyoming
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Washington

Cases of fraud, including identity theft, have risen in recent years, spurred partially by the Covid-19 pandemic and an uptick in data breaches flooding the black market with stolen personal information.

Earlier this year, the FTC reported that consumers filed more than 5.7 million fraud reports in 2021, roughly a quarter of which were identity theft complaints. Those consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud last year, an increase of 70% from 2020.

Cybersecurity experts recommend various steps to avoid becoming the victim of identity theft and other scams, including using stronger and more unique passwords, and multi-factor authentication, to protect your online accounts and personal information.

Meanwhile, WalletHub’s report advises you to always use “common sense” if you’re ever unsure if someone contacting you via email, text message or phone call is legitimate.

If you’re uncertain, always decline to provide sensitive details, like your passwords or social security number. Then, reach out to the company directly through their official app, website or phone number, experts say.

WalletHub also offers these tips: “Don’t open emails you don’t recognize. Don’t download files from untrustworthy sources. Don’t send account numbers and passwords via email or messenger applications. And don’t enter financial or personal information into websites that lack the ‘https’ prefix in their URLs.”

To compile its rankings, WalletHub judged each state and district based on 14 “key metrics.” The rankings give the most weight to the number of identity theft and fraud complaints per capita, and the average losses for the victims of those complaints.

WalletHub also took into account the number of arrests for fraud in each state in 2021, and the strength of each state or district’s policies that protect residents from fraud and identity theft, including data disposal laws and state resources dedicated to cybersecurity task forces.

The report used data from the FTC, Internet Crime Complaint Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Experian Information Solutions and National Conference of State Legislatures.

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