What do fine wine and identity theft have in common? According to the FTC’s top cities for identity theft, the answer is Napa, California.

Christopher Null blogged about this on Yahoo:

While you’re sipping Chardonnay and enjoying the beauty of the wine country, crooks may be busy swiping your identity. According to a Federal Trade Commission study, Napa, California, earned the title of worst town for identity theft, with over 300 consumer complaints per 100,000 residents in 2007.

Madera, California, (280 complaints per 100,000 residents) and Greeley, Colorado, (228 complaints) followed Napa on the list. On a state level, California (120 complaints) was surpassed by only Arizona, which had the worst per-capita trouble with identity theft (137 complaints).

I decided to go to a more local Northern California source and found that Channel 10 News out of Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto covered the story, also.

Cornell Barnard (News 10) reports:

Stockton ranks number 21 out of 50 on the Federal Trade Commission’s list of the worst cities for identity theft complaints.

Stockton Police can’t pinpoint why their city ranks so high, but the valley’s trade take part of the blame, a constant hunger for cash.

“It’s all connected. It’s a brutal crime for those victimized,” said Stockton Police spokesman Pete Smith.In addition to Stockton, Northern California is well-represented on the FTC list. Napa tops the list of U.S. metropolitan areas for identity theft consumer complaints, logging over 302 complaints for every 100,000 residents during 2007. Nearbly Vallejo and Fairfield rank sixth while the Yuba City area comes in 11th.

Interestingly enough, Vallejo and Fairfield are just over the hill from Napa and one of the entry points for the San Francisco Bay area. Yuba City is roughly just North of the Napa Valley. These cities aren’t very far from Stockton, either.

Maybe this means, there is a higher incidence of Identity Theft in Northern California? Napa might be the worst because it is an affluent area and the better a person’s credit is — the more lucrative their identity is to a criminal.

Being a fifth generation, or so Northern California type (a lot of this blog is written from there), I’d like to point out that Northern California also hosts a lot of information to combat the identity theft problem. In fact, some of the best resources to protect and educate people originate from the area.

Sacramento, which didn’t make the list is the State Capital. The Office of Privacy Protection is one of the better written information sources to educate people about the problem of identity theft. Please note the information on this site is available in English, Espanol and Chinese.

For the more frugal, this page contains all the information needed to protect a person without paying for one of those services with an alleged $1 million guarantee.

Interestingly enough, the State of California is also known as being pretty proactive when it comes to protecting the rights of victims. Many of the privacy laws enacted in California have had a worldwide impact.

A great place to read more about the problem is a document outlining Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Identity Theft Summit. This document includes a lot of perspective from privacy groups, law enforcement and business groups on the problem.

Last, but not least, a University of Berkeley professor, Chris Hoofnagle just issued an interesting paper based off information culled from the FTC about which financial institutions are most prone to making their customers a victim of identity theft. Professor Hoofnagle openly admits that the results might be jaded because they are only from a consumer complaint point of view and that most financial institutions seem to prefer not to release these statistics.

If your a more “visual type,” Cornell Barnard’s newscast on this story can be seen, here.

If you are one of those more “scholarly types,” the full FTC report on this can be viewed, here.

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