Georgia ranks among top states for identity theft and fraud

4 steps you can take to protect your data

Channel 2's consumer adviser Clark Howard explains how to secure all those passwords are.

More and more, it seems that protecting your personal data comes at a premium. From financial institutions like Capital One to social media networks like Facebook, a number of high-profile companies have fallen prey to hackers recently.

That includes the massive 2017 data breach of Equifax, the Atlanta-based credit reporting agency. That breach alone compromised the data of 147 million people, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Even as companies take a more pointed approach to protecting data, the trend continues: One recent report found more than 10,000 breaches occurred between Jan. 1, 2005, and Aug. 31, 2019.

And according to findings published this week, Georgians are among the most vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. The Peach State came in at No. 11 overall on the list published by WalletHub. The findings also shows Georgia tied for the state with the most identity theft complaints per capita.

The report ranked vulnerability based on three categories: identity theft, fraud and policy.

It evaluated all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 15 metrics, including E-commerce attack rates, people arrested for fraud per capita and presence of state laws on data disposal and phishing prevention.

What can you do to protect yourself from identity theft and fraud? Some tips from the report:

  • Email security: Since your main personal email is often used to authenticate other accounts or reset other passwords, it's especially important that it's secure. Setting up two-step verification is recommended. 
  • Credit monitoring: A number of services offer free credit monitoring (this was also offered to everyone affected by the Equifax breach). Once you sign up, you can rest a little bit easier knowing you'll be notified if anything goes haywire. 
  • Account alerts: On many of your online accounts, such as credit cards or loan companies, you can enable alerts for any changes made to your information. Keeping your contact information and mailing address up to date on your online accounts can also make them harder to hack into.
  • Think twice: By now, it's pretty well-known not to click on any suspicious links in your inbox, but even beyond blatant phishing attempts, a little common sense can go a long way in protecting yourself online. That means being mindful of sites that aren't secure (the ones without "https" before the URL) and not sending personal information through email or messaging apps.