Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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FTC Reports the Top 10 Complaints of 2012

When consumers have trouble with businesses, the Federal Trade Commission is often the go-to government agency for complaints. Each year, the FTC compiles a report on the complaints it received from the previous year. In 2012, the FTC’s biggest complaint category was identity theft. That makes the 13th year in a row that identity theft has topped the FTC’s list of complaints. Eighteen percent of all the FTC’s complaints were related to identity theft, similar to 2011, when 15% of all complaints were ID-theft related.

The FTC’s increase in identity theft complaints falls in line with a recent statistic from Javelin Strategy & Research. According to Javelin’s 2013 Identity Fraud Report, there were 12.6 million victims of identity fraud in the United States in 2012. A far cry from the 369,132 complaints the FTC received on identity theft. It’s more than possible that many identity theft victims do not realize they can and should report the crime to the FTC.

Other complaint categories are:

Debt collection, 10%
Banks and lenders, 6%
Shop-at-home and catalog sales, 6%
Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries, 5%
Impostor Scams, 4%
Internet Services, 4%
Auto-related complaints, 4%
Telephone and mobile services, 4%
Credit cards, 3%

The FTC received a record number of complaints in 2012, over two million of them, and half of them were related to fraud, with losses over $1.4 billion. Individual consumers lost an average of $2,350. Javelin’s Identity Fraud report cites a shocking $21 billion as the amount of money stolen in identity fraud cases. A record $47 billion was stolen in 2004.

The numbers paint a frightening reality of how widespread fraud cases have become. Unfortunately, it takes many people several months to realize they’ve become a victim. Recognizing the warning signs of fraud and identity theft is important.

Watch your mail for bills for accounts in your name that you don’t remember opening. When thieves get access to your social security number, they can open credit cards, take out loans, even get utilities in your name. Billing statements are often a sign that this has happened.

Debt collection calls for accounts you never opened are another sign that your identity has been compromised. Thieves may give creditors a fake address and phone numbers, but debt collectors can find the real you in their skip tracing process. Don’t take debt collection calls or letters lightly, even if the collection is for accounts you’ve never heard of.

Being unexpectedly denied for a credit card or loan could indicate that you’ve been a victim, especially if you don’t have any credit problems. You’re entitled to a free credit report within 60 days of being denied if your credit was the reason that you were turned down. Though you only get free access to the credit report the creditor used in their decision, it’s a good idea to check all three of your credit reports.

If you’ve been scammed or have been a victim of identity theft, be sure to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General. After receiving enough complaints about a certain business, the FTC will often file suit against the business and, if possible, give refunds to scam victims.

Sources: FTC.gov, Javelin Strategy & Research
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Thursday, 22 August 2019

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