LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Emily Thornton with IPX1031 says in 2021 Louisiana residents took a hard hit from identity theft.

The state ranked fourth in identity theft reports nationwide, according to the Federal Trade Commission. She says per 100,000 people, there were 732 reports of identity theft, totaling up to 34,000 reports altogether. Closer to home, among nearly 400 metro areas across the U.S., Lafayette ranked fifth-worst. Per 100,000 people there were 1,212 reports, totaling nearly 600,000 cases of identity theft.

“This data shows us that identity theft is on the rise, especially in most recent years,” said Thornton, who noted the COVID-19 pandemic is the cause for the recent increase in identity theft.

“Louisiana saw a 77.25% increase in identity theft from 2020-2021 compared to 2017-2019,” she said. Anyone is vulnerable to identity theft, especially during tax season. “We know that this time of the year, people have already filed their taxes or tried to get all of their identity information together — whether they’re going to file on their own or file with an accountant,” said Thornton.

Chris Babin with the Better Business Bureau says to protect your Social Security number and not to freely give out any personal information.

“Some of the biggest red flags to look out for are when there are pressure tactics involved,” said Babin. “Or if you get contacted about something that seems too good to be true.”

Most importantly, he said to be vigilant when giving any information online or over the phone. Babin said checking your credit report annually is a great wait to determine if you are a victim of identity theft.