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      February 16, 2019

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Identity Theft in Rhode Island

Rhode Island MapAt a rate of 63.8 cases for every 100,000 people in the state’s population, Rhode Island ranks 33rd in America with respect to identity theft. While this may sound positive, especially compared with other places in the nation, for the nearly 700 Rhode Islanders victimized by identity theft in an average year, it is a crime that can have expensive, long-lasting impact on nearly every aspect of one's life.

Criminals steal personal information such as names, account numbers, and social security numbers and use them to file fake tax returns, robbing taxpayers of much-anticipated refunds; to get medical treatments from hip replacements to expensive dental work; to obtain employment despite criminal convictions, by using someone else's good name; and even to provide aliases to the police when arrested. In the latter case, some individuals in Rhode Island have even faced false imprisonment for crimes committed using their identities.

How can Rhode Islanders protect themselves against identity crime? The main way is by securing their personal information, online and offline. While most people are familiar with "phishing" scams that try to steal account numbers and other information by sending emails posing as a recognized company, it seems that new methods for theft are appearing almost daily in the news. If something seems suspicious, like a bank or other company sending an email with a file to download to "fix" a problem, it is always best to contact the supposed sender directly using trusted contact information (e.g. a phone number on the back of a credit card or monthly statement). Keep social security numbers in a safe place, not carried regularly in a wallet or purse, and ask anyone that requests it - like a doctor's office or a service provider - if it is absolutely required for their services.

Finally, many residents of Rhode Island can benefit from the Identity Theft Protection services available in the state, which offer 24-hour monitoring of personal information at reasonable prices.


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