The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released its top 10 consumer complaint categories for 2012. For the first time ever, the agency received more than two million complaints last year. Of these two million complaints, interestingly, 18 percent were related to identity theft. Of those 18 percent, almost half were related to tax or wage fraud. The FTC says the top 10 complaint categories are as follows:
• Identity Theft – 369,132 complaints
• Debt collection – 199,721 complaints
• Banks and Lenders – 132,340 complaints
• Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales – 115,184 complaints
• Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries – 98,479 complaints
• Impostor Scams – 98,479 complaints
• Internet Services – 81,438 complaints
• Auto-Related Complaints – 78,062 complaints
• Telephone and Mobile Services – 76,783 complaints
• Credit Cards – 51,550 complaints
The FTC uses the Consumer Sentinel Network to record complaints throughout the year. The database is available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country. It helps agencies research cases and track targets. Among the federal and state law enforcement agencies contributing to Consumer Sentinel are the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the offices of 14 state attorneys general.
Private-sector organizations contributing data include all Better Business Bureaus in the U.S. and Canada, PrivacyStar, Publishers Clearing House and several others. State regulators handle most insurance complaints and the FTC report does not track insurance as a category. In the identity theft statistics, however, 0.3 percent of complaints involved misuse of information for insurance purposes.
Significantly, more than 1 million complaints were fraud-related. Consumers reported paying in excess of $1.4 billion in those fraud complaints, with the median amount paid being $535. Fifty-nine percent of the consumers who reported a fraud-related complaint also reported an amount paid. Fifty-seven percent of all fraud-related complaints reported the method of initial contact. Of those complaints, 38 percent involved email, while in another 34 percent the method was by telephone. Only 9 percent of those consumers reported mail as the initial point of contact. Florida is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported fraud and other types of complaints, followed by Georgia and Maryland.
Government documents/benefits fraud (46 percent) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by credit card fraud (13 percent), phone or utilities fraud (10 percent), and bank fraud (6 percent). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were employment-related fraud (5 percent) and loan fraud (2 percent). Complaints about government documents/benefits fraud increased 27 percentage points since calendar year 2010. Tax or wage-related fraud accounted for the growth in this area, with 43.4 percent of identity theft victims reporting this problem in 2012. Employment-related fraud complaints, in contrast, have declined 6 percentage points since calendar year 2010.
Forty-two percent of identity theft complainants reported whether they contacted law enforcement. Of those victims, 68 percent notified a police department. Fifty-four percent of these indicated a report was taken. Florida is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints, followed by Georgia and California.
Sources: The FTC Report and The Insurance Journal
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