According to a recent survey by the Consumer Federation of America and North American Consumer Protection Investigators, identity theft is the fastest growing complaint among consumers.
Last year, 12.7 million U.S. citizens were the victims of some type of fraud involving identity theft. In 2014, identity theft scams reportedly cost people over 16 billion dollars in financial fraud.
Impersonation fraud, a type of scam where someone calls the victim pretending to be a government official or business professional in order to collect personal details from the victim, is on the rise.
Impersonation scammers can collect a large amount of personal details from the victim including social security numbers, banking information, credit card information etc. This type of scam can leave the victim with serious debt and lots of credit problems.
In addition, identity thieves don’t just steal cash and mess up your credit. Some ID thieves will steal insurance policies, airline miles and even your social networking or online retail accounts.
South Florida is not just an international travel destination for people from all over the world, it is also the hub for financial fraud scams in the United States.
Florida ranks first among all 50 states for identity theft complaints. In 2013, Florida averaged 193 complaints statewide per 100,000 residents. However, in Miami that number jumps to 340 complaints per 100,000 residents.
South Florida’s biggest identity theft scams tend to involve Medicare, home mortgages and fraudulent tax refunds.
In fact, when it comes to fraudulent federal income tax returns, South Florida racks up 46 times the national average.
FBI agent George Piro recently told the Associated Press that criminal organizations appear to be moving away from violent crimes to crimes involving personal information and digital data.
Piro noted that identity theft used in fraudulent tax filings is the fastest growing crime in Southern Florida because it can be easily repeated thousands of times using thousands of different people.
Statistics from the United States Treasury Department estimate that almost 800,000 undetected bogus tax returns were filed in 2012. These fraudulent returns total more than $2.1 billion in tax refunds.
Medicare is also another popular target for scammers and identity thieves.
Since 2007, the federal government has charged almost 2,300 people with defrauding Medicare to the sum of 7 billion dollars.
Out of the 2,300 people charged with defrauding Medicare, 1,500 were from South Florida.
South Florida also leads the nation in mortgage fraud, where FHA loan applications are falsified so the federal home loan is approved. These bad loans are then sold to banks and other companies for a profit.
Identity theft is so bad in Florida that Hodges University recently set up the Identity Fraud Institute to research the problem and educate people about the threat.
The Institute’s Director, Carrie Kerskie, said she hopes that eventually the institute can be a centralized place for dealing with identity theft issues in the state of Florida where city, county and state government agencies can work together to fight the problem together instead of individually.
Identity theft rings have enlisted people from various professions to steal large amounts of personal information, including: government workers, legal professionals, healthcare workers and school employees.
Just this week, an immigration attorney from Irving, Texas pleaded guilty to identity theft in a federal court for forging visa applications for unauthorized immigrants.
It appears that no profession is immune to the lure of the identity theft racket, and no person is protected from being the target of it.