Feature Article
Mark Pribish
ID Theft is The Number One Consumer Complaint 11 Years in A Row
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its annual Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) report on March 8th (please read here) where the list of top consumer complaints showed that identity theft was the number one consumer complaint in the United States for the 11th consecutive year.

As many of you know and as I have written about over the last four years, identity theft is still an emerging risk management issue for both consumers and businesses - and identity theft will continue to threaten consumers and businesses in the foreseeable future.

That said, CSN is comprised of members ranging from federal, state and local law enforcement and is supported by businesses and non-profit organizations that contribute data (please read more here) relating to identity theft and fraud including:

  • Identity Theft
  • Do-Not-Call Registry violations
  • Computers, the Internet, and Online Auctions
  • Telemarketing Scams
  • Advance-fee Loans and Credit Scams
  • Sweepstakes, Lotteries, and Prizes
  • Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home Schemes
  • Health and Weight Loss Products
  • Debt Collection, Credit Reports, and Financial Matters

The top 10 consumer complaints are ranked in the CSN report by category, total number of complaints, and total number of complaints by percentage:

Rank Category Number of Complaints Percentage
1 Identity Theft 250,854 19%
2 Debt Collection 144,159 11%
3 Internet Services 65,565 5%
4 Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries 64,085 5%
5 Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales 60,205 4%
6 Imposter Scams 60,158 4%
7 Internet Auctions 56,107 4%
8 Foreign Money/Counterfeit Check Scams 43,866 3%
9 Telephone and Mobile Services 37,388 3%
10 Credit Cards 33,258 2%

The entire report (available here) also breaks out complaint data on a state-by-state basis and also contains data about the 50 metropolitan areas reporting the highest per capita incidence of fraud and other complaints.

Finally and for the first time, "imposter scams" - where imposters posed as family, friends, businesses, charities, or government agencies to get consumers to send them money made the top 10.

So what can you do? You can take action and file a complaint with the FTC. If you believe that you, a family member or your business has experienced an identity theft related event, you should take action and file a complaint directly with the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Central

Disaster Relief Scam (Again!)

The recent earthquake and resulting tsunami, which has devastated the nation of Japan, once again has many people feeling the need to make charitable donations towards the relief effort. Unfortunately, once again, scammers are taking advantage of the situation.

We wrote about this type of scam once before after the earthquake in Haiti (see the scam article here). This Scam Central piece is a reminder to those of you gracious enough to contribute to charities to pay attention to make sure your money is going where you intend, and not into a scammer's pocket.

How It Works:

You may receive phone calls from telemarketers, or perhaps get an email or a text message asking you to donate to the relief efforts in Japan, or anywhere else in the world when a natural disaster occurs. You send money by clicking on a link that takes you to a donation site, replying to a text, or by giving your credit card number over the phone to seemingly honest third-party collectors who claim they are representatives of the Red Cross, or a similar valid relief organization. In reality, your money has now gone to a scam artist, and if you paid with a credit card, you may soon find your card is maxed out.

Your Defense:

As always, if you do not know the source of an email, never click on the link provided. If you receive a text message or a phone call from someone claiming to represent a relief organization, use caution. You can always go directly to a relief effort website, such as the Red Cross, to contribute your money in a safe manner. In addition, you can find helpful information on researching any charitable organization at the following link: http://www.charitynavigator.org.

In conclusion, if you receive an email, text or phone call asking for your charitable contribution, never give any credit card or other valuable information over the phone, text, or online, unless you've properly vetted the organization.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.