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Published: Sep 14, 2023 8 min read
Silhouette of a hacker with a United States Map in the background
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Identity theft continues to plague Americans, as reported cases remain historically high even after a record-breaking wave of fraud reported throughout the pandemic.

Cases of identity theft aren’t spiking uniformly, though, and certain areas of the country are getting hit especially hard.

In the first half of 2023, Americans have already reported nearly 560,000 cases of identity theft nationwide, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). That puts 2023 on track to exceed 1 million identity theft complaints — far higher than any pre-pandemic year on record, dating back to 2001.

“Identity theft is a pervasive issue in the United States and has been for several decades,” says Axton Betz-Hamilton, an identity theft expert and consumer affairs professor at South Dakota State University.

During the pandemic, reported cases of identity theft skyrocketed. On the whole, the number of complaints filed so far this year is clocking in lower than recent pandemic years. That’s because, in 2020 and 2021, cases spiked to unprecedented levels, reaching about 1.4 million complaints for each year. Betz-Hamilton says this was largely because scammers pounced on the deluge of newly created government benefit programs.

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As the government tried to get relief as quickly as possible into the hands of Americans who needed it most, identity thieves used other people’s personal information to siphon off some of those funds. As a result, government benefits fraud quickly topped the list of reported cases of identity theft. For those two years, Americans reported more than 800,000 cases of benefits-related identity theft alone.

“The COVID-19 pandemic provided new opportunities for identity thieves,” she says.

Even as many of those pandemic-era programs have expired, the identity theft surge continues — and is particularly prevalent in Washington, D.C., Georgia and Florida, according to FTC data.