DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) – As costs rise with gas and inflation, identity theft is skyrocketing, especially in the state of Alabama.
It’s a growing national problem, with a new report from Lending Tree’s QuoteWizard detailing some of the rapid increases since 2019.
For Alabama, this is one of the 10 worst increases in the United States, with the state ranking 8th in the number of ID cases since the start of the decade.
From 1,630 reports in 2019 to 2022 so far with a total of 5,198, this equates to a 219% increase.
Alabama is not alone in dealing with the problem. Cases in Louisiana increased 396% over the same period, cases in Mississippi increased 252%, Florida increased 175%, and Georgia increased 122%.
The report, based on FTC data, says that 35 US states saw an increase of more than 100% in identity theft in 2022 compared to 2019. The only two states reporting an increase of less than 50% are the Maine (46%). and New Hampshire (32%).
These identity theft reports range from credit card fraud, loan/lease fraud, telephone/utility fraud, bank fraud, employment/tax fraud and government document/benefits fraud.
Most of the increases are directly related to government document/benefit fraud, with most related to measures taken during the pandemic. Criminals were able to take advantage of the global health event and the influx of more people online to easily obtain personal information. Most scammers use it to steal unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, and other newly formed government relief efforts.
Bank fraud has also seen significant increases, with 293% more cases in 2022 compared to 2019. For the government document or benefit fraud category, this is a 270% increase from 5,707 cases in 2019 to 21,444 in 2022.
While there are many steps you can take to further protect your own identity, such as identity theft insurance, here are some of the steps you should take if you think you may be a victim of identity theft. identify :
- Check your credit score with the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act allows you to get a free report once a year from one of three credit bureaus. There are other credit monitoring services, but their capabilities tend to be more limited.
- Get a free Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft and Recovery Plan and Theft Report.
- Dispute any fraudulent information in your credit reports. If you provide your creditors with an official report of identity theft, debt collectors are generally prohibited from contacting you about debts related to the theft once you have sent them a discontinuance letter.
- Contact Equifax, Experian or TransUnion for a free fraud alert. You do not have to request an alert from the three agencies. If you alert one of them, they will alert the other two. A fraud alert can be active for up to seven years.
- Place a credit freeze. Since September 2018, consumers have been allowed to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports free of charge. Freezing your credit report prevents anyone, including you, from accessing your credit reports. This can help prevent identity thieves from opening fake accounts in your name.
And of course, contact local law enforcement who can help prevent any false actions on your behalf.
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