Identity theft is on the rise - and the thieves stealing your info are getting more tech-savvy.
New York has risen to sixth in the nation in cases of identity theft, with nearly 18,000 complaints filed last year, up by about 1,400 cases compared to 2010, according to data released yesterday by Federal Trade Commission.
Fraudsters employ a bevy of tricks to lift confidential numbers for credit cards, bank accounts and social security from unsuspecting victims, but experts say the criminals increasingly are turning onlineto steal the info.
"There's such an increase in technology in people's daily lives that more information than ever is out there," said Tammy Nealy of LifeLock, a firm that helps consumers guard against identity theft.
Nealy added that unsecured wireless networks, like those in Starbucks and McDonald's, are virtual gold mines for techy crooks.
"Any time you're putting in usernames and passwords on an unsecured network, anyone can access your activities," she said.
It's unclear why New Yorkers are more susceptible to fraudsters' tricks, experts said.
David Torok, head of the FTC's planning and communications unit, said I.D. theft is consumers' most common complaint, with digital the preferred method.
"The old-fashioned 'the check is in the mail' is going down," Torok said.
Rachel Ouillette, 32, of Williamsburg, was caught in a "phishing" scam; her entire checking account was "Western Unionized to Armenia" within 24 hours, she said.
"I changed my password, but I gave them a lot of personal information," Ouillette said. "There could be a lot of personal ramifications."
Offline scams can also be devastating. Joseph Ham, 32, of Williamsburg, said his life has been a nightmare since his wallet - including his Social Security card - was stolen last April.
"He's still using my Social Security number," Ham said of his thief, who bought "more than 50 iPhones" using Ham's identity.
Still, Ouillette said there's only so much we can do about the threat of I.D. theft.
"Living in NYC, you're always bombarded with hustlers," she said. "This is just another way for them" to get your money.
Here are the 10 states with the most identity thefts per 100,000 residents:
1. Florida: 178.7
2. Georgia: 120.0
3. California: 103.6
4. Arizona: 98.5
5. Texas: 96.1
6. New York: 92.3
7. Nevada: 89.9
8. New Jersey: 86.4
9. Maryland: 86.3
10. Delaware: 83.5