California has the highest number of identity theft complaints in the nation, and the average cost to victims is skyrocketing. That’s according to a new report released Wednesday by the California Public Interest Group. CALPIRG’s Jon Fox says while old practices such as mail theft and dumpster diving continue, identity thieves are inreasingly relying on high-tech methods such as skimming personal data through public WiFi hot spots and wireless Bluetooth devices.
“It is possible for someone sitting next to you in Starbucks to access your computer and to conduct what is called the man in the middle or the man in the browser attack and basically pull off all your information,” he says. “So it’s not recommended to check your bank account or to buy things online when you’re on an unsecured WiFi.”
Fox says it’s possible to tether into a laptop, tablet or cell phone if a person’s Bluetooth is on, even when it’s not in use. “And so we recommend to consumers, you can use Bluetooth, but when you’re not using it, just disable it on your phone and devices,” he says.
Law enforcement data show Californians account for both the highest percentage of internet crime complaints, and the highest percentage of known perpetrators in the nation. And while the number of victims in California declined between 2010 and 2011, the average cost per victim over that period shot up from $82 dollars to $786.