By Jonathan Stempel
New Yorkers, especially around New York City, and Californians, especially around Los Angeles, are more likely to be targets of identity theft, according to a new study.
The study released Wednesday by ID Analytics Inc., a San Diego fraud security firm, found that New York, California and Nevada have the highest incidence of attempted identity theft, while Wyoming, Vermont and Montana have the lowest rates.
Three other Western states ranked in the top 10 in fraud attempts: Arizona (4), Oregon (7) and Washington (9).
Among states with large populations, Illinois ranked 5th, Michigan8th, Texas 10th, New Jersey 12th, Florida 14th, Pennsylvania 36th, and Ohio 46th.
Urban areas had higher fraud rates because larger populations make it easier for criminals to "operate under the radar," according to Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer at ID Analytics.
"With respect to income," he added, "(fraud) rates are elevated at the high and low income ranges, and lower in middle income levels. In New York, for example, that could help explain some rates, and why there appear to be 'pockets' of fraud."
The study was released two weeks after Javelin Strategy & Research, a Pleasanton, California firm, said identity theft cost Americans $49.3 billion last year, an 11.5 percent drop that might reflect increased vigilance.
It said people with incomes above $150,000 were among those most at risk.
ID Analytics studied incidents from January 2003 to June 2006, including attempted thefts as well as reported crimes, using data collected from clients and public sources.
It said 10 percent to 15 percent of fraud attempts involve stolen identities of actual consumers, while the balance involved criminals creating identities with real and false data.
According to the study, Manhattan residents with zip codes beginning with "100" were four times as likely to be targeted. Next were Brooklyn, New York residents with 112 codes, and Detroit residents with 482 codes.
The next four zip codes were in the Bronx, Manhattan and Nassau County, New York, followed by the 948 code in Contra Costa County, near San Francisco, and Los Angeles' 900 code.
Of the top 50 codes, two-thirds were in New York and California.
Some findings appeared unusual.
The fraud rate in one zip code for Floral Park, New York was 63.3 times the national average, which Coggeshall attributed to an unexplained surge in 2005.
That rate dwarfed the next highest rate, 12.3 times the national average, in the zip code for Faulkton, South Dakota -- population 703.
Coggeshall said the data suggested that for consumers, "it's important to be aware of your general level of identity risk."
Experts urge consumers not to divulge personal data in response to unsolicited communications. They also recommend consumers notify financial services providers and file fraud alerts with credit bureaus if they suspect identity theft.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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