Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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ID Theft Number One Consumer Complaint for 9th Year in a Row

The Federal Trade Commission - the nation's consumer protection agency against fraud - reported on Thursday that identity theft was the number one consumer complaint for the ninth year in a row.

Of the 1,223,370 complaints in 2008 to the FTC, the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies, 313,982 - or 26% - were related to identity theft.

The next most frequent complaints were debt collection practices at 9%, fraud relating to shop at home and catalog sales at 4%, and internest services at 4%. Seventeen other categories each accounted for 3% or less of consumer complaints.

At the national level, credit card fraud was the most common form of identity theft, making up 20% of consumer complaints, followed by government documents/benefits fraud accounted for 15% of identity theft complaints, with employment fraud also at 15%, phone or utilities fraud at 13%, bank fraud at 11%, and loan fraud at 4%.

24% of identity theft reports fell under the category of "other" and 6% of complaints were reported as attempted identity theft. The total percentage doesn't add up to 100% because some reports crossed more than one category.

Arizona has the highest per capita reported rate of reported identity theft complaints, followed by California, Florida, Texas, and Nevada.

South Dakota had the lowest per capita rate, followed by North Dakota, Iowa, Montana, and Wyoming. But the prevailing form of identity theft varies state-by-state.

Nationally, about 65% of credit card identity theft is reported to be by opening new accounts, and the remaining 35% is by the unauthorized use of an existing account. Identity theft related to credit card fraud is the most common form of identity theft in most states, making up about 18% to 22% of all identity theft complaints in the majority of states.

But 29% of complaints from Vermont and New Hampshire were for credit card fraud. Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York also had a significantly high percentage compared to the national average.

The vast majority of identity theft complaints under the government documents/benefits fraud category relates to fraudulently filed tax returns, with a very small percentage relating to fraudulently applying for and receiving government benefits and fraudulently receiving driver's licenses or other government identification documents.

Government documents/benefits fraud is the most common form of identity theft in some southern states. In Alabama, government documents/benefits fraud accounts for 32% of identity theft complaints, compared to credit card fraud at 16%.

Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee also received more reports of government documents/benefits fraud than other types of identity theft.

Employment-related identity theft is more predominant in some western states. In Arizona, employment-related identity theft made up 33% of consumer complaints, compared to credit card fraud at 14%.

Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas also had a higher percentage of reports for employment-related fraud than for credit card fraud. In California, employment fraud and credit card each account for 20% of reported identity theft.

24% of identity theft complaints from Ohio consumers were for phone and utilities fraud, compared to credit card fraud at 19%. Indiana complaints had slightly more instances of identity theft by phone or utilities fraud than by credit card fraud. Most identity theft in this category pertains to the opening of new home phone, mobile phone, or home utility service accounts, with a very small portion related to making unauthorized charges to existing accounts.

Identity theft victims tend to be younger adults, or maybe, younger adults tend to report the incidents more often. Only 7% of reports were from victims younger than age 19, but 24% of complaints came from victims in their twenties. With each increasing age group, the percentage of reports decline: thirties - 23%, forties - 19%, fifties - 14%, sixties - 7%, seventies and older - 5%.

It's interesting to note that while fraud related to identity theft is a common crime that can cause plenty of long-term damage to the victim, 65% of those who reported the incident to authorities such as the BBB or the FTC did not file a police report. Some victims may feel that local police can't do much to solve the crime so they don't even bother.

But keep in mind that while chances are low that the criminal will be caught, it is still a good idea to file a police report. A police report may help the victim to dispute fraudulent charges with a creditor or credit bureau, and can be especially important if the identity theft is severe.

If you have been a victim or suspect you have been a victim of identity theft, report it to your local police department, the creditor and the reporting credit bureau, and www.ftc.gov. For tips on preventing yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft, check out the related articles below.


Source:
Federal Trade Commission
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Saturday, 24 August 2019

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