You probably didn't need any fancy study to tell you that Florida is a hotbed for all things illegal and shady.
But the Federal Trade Commission just published one anyway, dropping a recent state-by-state breakdown of all fraud complaints filed with the federal agency for 2014.
Not only did Florida rack up the most reports of fraud but it tops the list in terms of ID theft as well. South Florida also led the league in such reports — a factor that makes sense, considering the largest national epidemic of ID fraud began here.
The FTC report — dubbed the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book — crunched the numbers for all complaints filed between January and December 2014. Nationally, reports of fraud rose considerably, up to 2.5 million from 2.2 million in 2013. To throw this in perspective, consider that a decade earlier, in 2004, the number of reported fraud complaints was... 860,000.
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As New Times readers know, South Florida in particular has become ground zero for all sorts of fraud, including ID theft. That is powered in part by Felony Lane Gang outfits, Broward-based crews that are responsible for millions of dollars in bank fraud a year. The FTC doesn't drop Felony Lane by name, but the study's focus on South Florida illustrates the movement's impact.
In a state-by-state comparison for fraud, Florida tops the list: In 2014, 200,392 complaints of fraud were reported in the state. For every 100,000 people, that's 1,007.3 reports — the highest rate in the country. The number-two spot went to Georgia, which notched 777.7 complaints per 100,000. If we're talking just identity fraud, Florida again tops a state-by-state comparison with 37.059 complaints in 2014. That equates to 186.3 reports per 100,000 people. Coming in second: Washington, with 154.8 complaints.
When you consider the stats by city, South Florida again is the big winner (or loser, we guess). On all fraud complaints, the Sierra Vista-Douglas, Arizona, metro area came in first, with 1,200 reports of fraud for every 100,000 individuals. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro areas landed at number 14 on that ranking, 532.1 per 100,000.
But if we're just talking identity fraud, those numbers change significantly. The South Florida metro area tops that list, with 316.2 complaints per 100,000. The second-place winner, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington, posted 207 complaints per 100,000. (Incidentally, that same metro area is a popular destination for Broward-based Felony Lane crews.)