RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s estimated about one-third of us will be victimized by identity theft in our lifetime and it turns out North Carolina is one of the top states where that can happen.

Data — we’re surrounded by it. We live our lives by it, and in the wrong hands — can ruin our lives.

“Just last year alone, 422 million victims had their information compromised,” said Eva Velasquez, the president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

U.S. News and World Reports 360 Reviews recently conducted a study to determine the most and least at-risk states for identity theft, and it shows North Carolina ranked 13th nationally.

ID theft is growing because the criminals involved are becoming more sophisticated.

“The scammers actually have strategies in place for where they are going to target,” said Velasquez.

She says the root cause of identity thefts are data breaches.

Because there is no national law about reporting those breaches — each state has its own set of rules.

“If you live in one state,” she said. “Companies may have different mandates by law about how they notify you — what they tell you, versus another state that doesn’t have as robust a cybersecurity/data breach notification recognition.”

What they tell you makes a big difference on how you are able to deal with it, because some breach notifications are not that clear or descriptive.

“The first step in a risk-minimalization plan where your Social Security number is compromised is going to be different from the first step in a compromise where your username and password have been exposed,” said Velasquez .

If you’ve been victimized by ID theft, there are nationally available resources in the form of help sites like the Federal Trade Commission. or the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center which can help you get back on track.

Velasquez also says now is the time for some kind of federal initiative to get laws in place to protect our data so there won’t be a mish-mosh of various state regulations.

“The time for a comprehensive data breach notification law is here,” she said. “It is really important to get everyone on a level playing field.”

Experts calculate data breaches are responsible for almost $6 billion in losses to our economy since 2021, as well as, tens of billions more in fraud losses.