Florida leads the nation in identity theft - FOX 13 News

Florida leads the nation in identity theft

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Through no fault of their own, Zephyrhills resident Jennifer Orange and her husband became statistics.

"Somebody had already filed taxes using our Social Security numbers and were denied getting our tax returns back," she said.

It would take about six months for it all to get cleared up. They were just some of the many Floridians to fall victim to ruthless identity thieves.

"I was totally appalled and flabbergasted," Orange said. "It makes you feel this big,"

In 2012, Florida topped the nation in identity theft. The Tampa Bay region was among the top five metropolitan areas nationally. In fact, the top five were all in Florida.

"Wow. That's all you can say," Orange said.

Wow is right. Recently we've seen criminals go after Target and Nieman Marcus. Before that, tax fraud was king. Thieves will find just about any way they can to get your information, then go on a spending spree.

"Con artists are counting on us being lazy with finances. Our best defense is to make sure we know where every penny is at every second," said FOX 13 Consumer reporter Chris Chmura.

That means monitoring your bank account, and smart phone apps are great for that. But stay off public WiFi and always remember to log out.

Number two, never give personal information over the phone or computer unless you're sure about who it's going to.

And as for those tax returns?

"Your best defense is to get your tax forms filed sooner rather than later to beat the criminals to the IRS," Chmura said.

Because the race against identity thieves is one you don't want to lose.

"It scares me so bad because you never ever know," Orange told FOX 13.

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