CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Identity theft can lead to financial ruin, damaged credit score and a loss of security, and its only gotten worse.

According to a study from LendingTree, in the U.S., “second-quarter identity (ID) theft reports have increased by nearly 70% since 2019,” citing the pandemic as a major contributor. In West Virginia, the number is even worse.

The change in ID theft reports per 100,000 residents between Q2 2019 and Q2 2023 for West Virginia was 100 percent, tying the state with Idaho and Wyoming. In comparison, the highest increase was in Massachusetts at 306.1%.

West Virginia saw a 23.1% increase from just Q2 2022 to Q2 2023 alone.

Credit card fraud proved to be the most common type of identity theft overall. Luckily, there are things you can do to help prevent identity theft.

“At a minimum, you should get credit monitoring,” Rob Bhatt, LendingTree home insurance expert and a licensed insurance agent, said. “These plans send out an alert if someone uses your identity to apply for credit or open an account, so you can alert authorities and nip it in the bud. Three-bureau monitoring is best because these plans tend to alert you to suspicious activity quicker than single-bureau monitoring plans.”

There are also plans for ID restoration or repair expenses.

To achieve their findings, LendingTree analyzed data from the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network for the 100 most populous U.S. metros, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau 2022 American Community Survey with one-year estimates, looking for places with the biggest changes in identity theft reports between Q2 2019 and Q2 2023 and ranking them accordingly.