Maryland has become a hotspot in the national identity theft epidemic, states the National Consumers League (NCL). According to the Federal Trade Commission’s recently-released Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, Maryland ranked fourth on the list of states with the highest per-capita identity theft complaints in 2015. Maryland had a total of 11,006 complaints in 2015, nearly doubling the previous year’s 5,734 complaints when it only ranked tenth on the list.

According to NCL:

The vulnerability of Marylanders to fraud, and particularly identity theft, is exacerbated by the ongoing problem of data breaches. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, two-thirds of identity fraud victims have received a data breach notification in the past 12 months. As data breaches continue to affect millions of Americans, it is likely that millions more will suffer from this scam.

“Data breaches regularly expose sensitive personal information about millions of Maryland consumers to cybercrime black markets,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud at the National Consumers League. “Consumers can and should take steps to mitigate their risk of identity theft, but they can’t prevent it entirely. Leaders in Washington need to help make sure that the companies that hold consumers’ data protect it to the greatest extent possible.”

While there is no foolproof way for consumers to protect themselves from identity theft, there are steps they can take that will reduce their risk. Tips to protect your identity include:

  • Make sure browser, anti-virus, and operating system software are updated regularly;
  • Use strong passwords that are different for each website;
  • Enable two-factor authentication when possible (this is the code sent via text to your mobile phone which you use to log into a website);
  • Secure your home wireless router and network;
  • Don’t click on links in emails or download attachments you aren’t expecting;
  • Know what companies store your personal data and limit what you share.
  • File your taxes early in the tax season. Tax-related identity theft is a top source of identity theft complaints. NCL has published a step-by-step guide to spotting and recovering from this fraud.
  • Review your credit reports regularly at and report any suspicious activity promptly.

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