(KLFY) — If you’ve been the victim of identity theft recently, you’re not alone.

According to a study by the insurance-comparison website QuoteWizard, Louisiana has seen a 135% increase in reported identity thefts since 2019, the third-highest such increase of any state in the nation. Only West Virginia and Kansas had a higher increase, but both saw many fewer cases overall.

Louisiana saw 24,898 identity theft reports in 2022, compared to 2,657 in West Virginia and 5,651 in Kansas. Louisiana also had the second-highest rate of reported identity thefts per 100,000 residents, 534. Only Georgia (574) had more.

The sharp increase in identity theft reports started during the COVID-19 pandemic, and every state has had an overall increase over the past 3 years, the study revealed. In many cases, criminals used the pandemic to get people’s personal information and then used it to steal benefits related to unemployment programs, stimulus payments and other newly created government relief efforts.

What to do if you’re the victim of identity theft

Experts from the Federal Trade Commission and other organizations recommend acting fast when you discover identity theft to minimize the damage. Here’s what you should do if you discover unauthorized use of your personal data.

  1. Contact the company or organization where the fraud has occurred. Notify them that your identity has been stolen and ask them to freeze your account.
  2. Contact your identity theft insurance provider, if you have one, to inquire about opening a claim. If the incident is limited to the unauthorized use of your debit or credit card, you may not need to formally open a claim.
  3. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The credit bureau you contact is required to notify the other two about the alert, which makes it difficult for others to open new accounts with your Social Security number.
  4. File an identity theft report with the FTC at identitytheft.gov or by phone at (877) 438-4338. The FTC provides a free recovery plan to guide you through the process.
  5. File a police report. Some companies and organizations require a police report to forgive unauthorized transactions.
  6. Review your credit report and notify creditors and credit bureaus of unauthorized charges.
  7. Update the login credentials for your online accounts. Use secure passwords and two-factor authentication. Monitor the accounts for suspicious activity.
  8. Consider freezing your credit file with all three credit bureaus. A freeze prevents anyone, including you, from opening a new account with your Social Security number. Just remember to unfreeze your credit when you need to open a new account.

Basic identity theft insurance covers the costs associated with closing unauthorized accounts and removing fraudulent transactions from your credit history. More advanced plans often include fraud prevention and detection services as well as reimbursement for stolen funds.

While standard home insurance generally does not cover identity theft, you can usually purchase it as an add-on to your homeowners or renters policy.

Several companies not affiliated with home insurers also offer identity theft insurance, often in packages that also include credit monitoring and other identity theft protection services.