According to InfoSecurity Magazine, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that Kansas had the highest rate of identity theft in 2020 and more than three times the national average.
The FTC says that 43,211 Kansans reported their identity was stolen or an attempt to steal their identity. The figures for 2020 mark a 1,802% increase from the previous year.
Why the Sudden Spike in Identity Theft in Kansas?
The state government is investigating why 2020 saw such a huge increase in identity theft cases. They believe that it may be linked to a specific data breach of the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL).
InfoSecurity Magazine noted that “An investigation into a possible breach was launched after a woman named Lisa Hirst accidentally entered the wrong Social Security number into the KDOL website in February and was shown someone else’s personal information.”
Hirst was quoted as saying, “I can’t be the only one who found this.”
A recently released report from the Kansas Legislative Post Audit Division claims that $600 million paid out in federal unemployment benefits may have been fraudulent.
The Kansas Department of Labor commented that “LPA did not use the data available to them and instead chose to use a flawed methodology that fundamentally misunderstands KDOL’s fraud prevention process.”
Officials firmly believe that there is a direct link between the data breach with the KDOL and the spike in identity theft.
A representative from the KDOL said,
“Originally when we were questioning the fraud department, they were referring back to the Experian and Equifax breach of data a few years back, and possibly that data was sold on the dark web that those Social Security numbers were being utilized to manipulate our system. But if it’s as easy as (Hirst) has found it to be, then there wouldn’t even require any purchase on the dark web; the information is just there, and it’s just a click away.”
How to Stay Safe from Identity Theft
Identity theft is a serious problem, and since 2020, thousands of Americans are dealing with the aftermath. Not only can identity theft ruin your credit, but thieves can also wrack up mountains of debt in your name, leaving you with the bill. Some criminals will commit crimes, and when they are caught, they will provide your stolen information as their own identity. You could be walking around free without even knowing that police have issued a warrant in your name.
It is much harder to recuperate from identity theft than it is to prevent it in the first place. Unfortunately, we cannot avoid being caught in a data breach, especially one from a government agency that already has our information. However, there are other things we can do to protect our identity and stay safe.
Never give out personal information to anyone who requests it unsolicited.
Do not share credentials (logins) for any website.
Never click on links or download attachments in email.
Watch out for fraudulent and phishing emails, texts, and phone calls.
Use strong passwords on all your accounts.
Never reuse passwords on multiple accounts.
Keep your devices updated with the latest security patches.
Use good, strong, antivirus-anti-malware software and run deep scans often.
Frequently review all your accounts.
Check your credit report regularly.
Sign up for identity theft monitoring to let the professionals keep an eye on things and alert you if anything seems off.
The best tool you can use to stay safe from identity theft is common sense, and if something appears too good to be true, it is.