ID Theft Leads FTC List of Fraud Complaints

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Complaints about identity theft topped the Federal Trade Commission's list of consumer fraud incidents reported in 2001, agency officials said yesterday.

Identity theft represented 42 percent of the 204,000 complaints registered in 2001 in the Consumer Sentinel, the FTC's database of fraud reports. Complaints about Internet auctions were a distant second, representing 10 percent of the database.

Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, cautioned not to make too much of the high number of identity-theft reports. The number reflects the FTC's efforts to educate the public about identity theft and urge them to report to the commission if they think they are victims.

"I think it is up from last year," he said. "But I'm not sure that means anything."

The FTC distributes 250,000 booklets on identity theft monthly and maintains a toll-free hotline for consumer to report such complaints, Beales said.

Here is the rest of the commission's top 10 list of consumer fraud complaints:

• Internet services and computer complaints, 7 percent.

• Shop-at-home and catalog offers, 6 percent.

• Advance fee loans and credit protection, 5 percent.

• Prizes, sweepstakes and gifts, 4 percent.

• Business opportunities and work-at-home programs, 4 percent.

• Foreign money offers, 4 percent.

• Magazines and buyers clubs, 3 percent.

• Telephone pay-per-call and information services, 2 percent.

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