FTC: Identity theft leads consumer complaints

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For the seventh year in a row, identity theft tops the list of complaints that consumers filed with the Federal Trade Commission, accounting for 36 percent of the 674,354 complaints received from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2006.

Other high-ranking complaint categories in the annual FTC report, "Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data," include shop-at-home/catalog sales (7 percent); prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries (7 percent); Internet services and computer complaints (6 percent); and Internet auction fraud (5 percent). "Consumers' help in stopping unlawful operations is critical," FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said in a statement. "By filing a complaint with the FTC, consumers are making information available to more than 1,600 law enforcement agencies that have access to our secure database."

For the first time, complaint data are broken out by metropolitan statistical areas with populations greater than 100,000. Breakout data for more than 350 metropolitan areas can be found at http:// www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/02/topcomplaints.htm.

One major data contributor changed the way in which it codes complaints, and did not code many of its complaints, so comparisons with previous years' complaint categories are difficult, the FTC said. Other findings:

* Consumers reported fraud losses surpassing $1.1 billion; the median monetary loss was $500. Eighty-five percent of consumers reporting fraud also reported an amount lost.

* The percentage of fraud complaints with wire transfer as the reported payment method continues to rise: 23 percent of consumers reported wire transfer as the payment method, up 8 points from calendar year 2005.

* Credit card fraud (25 percent) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by phone or utilities fraud (16 percent), bank fraud (16 percent) and employment fraud (14 percent).

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