Identity Theft Tops Consumer Complaints to FTC

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The Federal Trade Commission released its annual consumer complaints report yesterday, and identity theft was again the most common form of consumer fraud.

Identity theft complaints comprised 37 percent of the 686,000 complaints filed on the FTC's database, the Consumer Sentinel, in 2005. This was down slightly from 39 percent in 2004. Credit card fraud was the most frequent form, amounting to 26 percent of all the identity thefts, the report said.

Consumers lost $680 million to all forms of fraud in 2005.

Arizona was home to the most victims of identity fraud per capita, with nearly 160 complaints per 100,000 residents being registered, according to FTC analysis.

Outside identify theft, Internet auctions were the next highest source of consumer fraud complaints. Of the total number, 12 percent were from Internet auctions, down from 16 percent in 2004. The other major sources of fraud were foreign money offers (8 percent), Shop-at-Home/catalog sales (8 percent), prizes/sweepstakes and lotteries (7 percent) and Internet services and computer complaints (5 percent), according to the report.

In all forms of fraud outside identity theft, Alaska had the highest number of victims per capita with nearly 250 complaints per 100,000 people. Next highest was Washington, at 175 victims per 100,000.

Internet-related complaints amounted to 46 percent of all fraud complaints, the FTC said. Fraudsters solicited their victims most commonly with e-mail. E-mail was used to contact consumers in 35 percent of the fraud cases, up from 26 percent in 2003. Web sites and other forms of online solicitation fell from 32 percent in 2003 to 20 percent in 2005.

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