By Randall Davidson for Wausau Pilot & Review

Credit card use is experiencing a post-pandemic boom in communities including Wausau, but with it comes a spike in reports of credit card fraud.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many households reduced their reliance on credit, paid off their credit card balances and applied for credit less often. However, high inflation over the past two years has meant increased household costs and a rebound in the need for credit cards. By the end of 2022, banks were issuing new consumer credit at the highest levels since 2016.

As people use credit cards more, they’re at increased risk to be victims of credit card fraud. Reported cases have approximately tripled over the last five years with fraud from new accounts rising tenfold over the last two decades. 

Experts say credit card fraud typically occurs in two forms. The most common is “application fraud,” when someone attempts to open a new credit card account in another person’s name using personal information or counterfeit documents. The other is “account takeover” when personal information is used by someone to gain access to another person’s existing account. 

The travel group Upgraded Points analyzed figures released in March by the Federal Trade Commission to provide data on credit card fraud nationwide. The researchers ranked locations by their rate of credit card fraud reports in 2022. Wisconsin reported a total of 3,073 credit card fraud reports or 5.2 per 10,000 residents, well below the rate of 13.5 reported for the nation as a whole. However, fraud reports in Wisconsin for 2022 showed a 33.8% increase over the previous year and a 58.7% change over the period 2019-2022. Comparable numbers for the entire country were 13.7% and 61.8%. The results place Wisconsin at 34th overall. Florida was the state with the most credit card fraud reports per 10,000 residents; South Dakota had the least.

The report looked at data from 357 metro areas. Those in Wisconsin all beat the national average of 13.5 fraud reports per 10,000 residents. The Wausau/Weston metro reported the fewest reports per 10,000 residents in all of Wisconsin and nationally was sixth best, but still saw a significant increase:

The report says most credit card fraud reports come from victims ages 30-39. Researchers suspect it’s because those in this age group are more comfortable sharing personal information online.

Metro areas with better numbers than Wausau/Weston are Ames, Iowa, which tied Wausau’s rate of 2.6 but had fewer total reports. Other metro areas with fewer reports per 10,000 residents were St. Cloud, Minnesota (2.5); Logan, Utah (2.4); Bangor, Maine (2.2) and Johnson City, Tennessee (2.1). 

The metro area with the highest incidence of credit card fraud is Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with a rate of 77.4 fraud reports per 10,000 residents.

See the full report here.