Identity Theft Tops List of Consumer Complaints
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Updated May 7, 2013: IdentityProtection.com, a new website powered by Equifax, takes an in-depth look at each of the top 10 states for identity theft, examining state and metro area statistics, examples of widespread fraud, potential reasons residents of these states are at risk and local efforts to curb identity theft.
Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions division at Equifax, said education is the key to helping consumers understand their risk and protect their identities. “Consumers can reduce the risk to themselves and their families by being vigilant and proactive to safeguard their personal information,” he said. “By analyzing the states and cities that have been hardest hit by identity theft, we can better understand the crime and help consumers protect themselves.”
Learn more about the Top 10 States for Identity Theft—and how you can protect yourself—by visiting IdentityProtection.com.
You might have seen recent news about data breaches and identity theft, and one of Hollywood’s latest comedy flicks is centered around this fast-growing crime. But the buzz surrounding identity theft isn’t the result of media hype or Hollywood fiction.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received a record two million consumer complaints in 2012; identity theft accounted for 18 percent of all complaints, up from 15 percent in 2011.
According to the FTC’s 2012 annual report of complaints, identity theft was the number one complaint category for the 13th consecutive year, with 369,132 complaints.
Government documents or benefits fraud was the most common type of identity theft reported, representing 46 percent of all identity theft complaints, with a 27 percent increase from 2010. Tax- or wage-related fraud was the most common complaint within this category, reported by more than 43 percent of identity theft victims last year.
“The IRS is really where identity theft is making a big hit,” says Norm Magnuson, vice president of public affairs for the Consumer Data Industry Association.
Credit card identity theft, however, has trended downward over the last few years, and out of 30 consumer complaint categories, complaints related to credit cards or credit bureaus rank at 10 and 19, respectively.
“I think lenders are making better use of fraud-prevention tools,” Magnuson says. “I think the industry on the credit card side has done a pretty good job of educating consumers on identity theft and ways to prevent it.”
Magnuson says direct consumer products offered by the three nationwide credit reporting agencies could have also helped to reduce credit card fraud by allowing individuals to more effectively monitor their credit reports.
More than one million of the FTC’s 2012 complaints, or 52 percent, were related to fraud. This reportedly cost the complainants more than $1.4 billion total. The median sum paid by fraud victims was $535.
Of the fraud victims who indicated how they were initially contacted, the majority said they were reached by either email (38 percent) or phone (34 percent). Twelve percent were contacted on the Internet, and 9 percent were contacted by mail.
Florida topped the list of states with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints last year, followed by Georgia and California. Florida and Georgia are also the states with the highest per capita rate of reported fraud and other types of complaints, with Maryland in third.
If you want to submit a consumer complaint to the FTC, you can do so online or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.
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