For the twelfth successive year, identity theft topped the consumer complaint database of the Federal Trade Commission with the largest number of complaints, perhaps owing to the rampant use (and misuse) of online services such as social networking and e-commerce websites.
From the 1.8 million complaints the FTC got in 2011, almost 300,000 are about identity theft. The information of FTC has included complaints filed to them or from other states and federal consumer protection groups.
Most of the complaints of identity theft are coming from consumers saying that their personal details are used in government documents without their knowledge, with scammers aiming to collect benefits. Last year, government-related identity theft was 27% of the total complaints in that category, increasing by 11% since 2009. Accounting for the 14% of identity theft complaints is credit card fraud, with the rest consisting of complaints of bank, utilities and phone fraud.
More than half of all the complaints last year were related to fraud and taxpayers reportedly paid a total of over USD 1.5 billion in fraudulent schemes, with the average amount paid being USD 537. Moreover, 43% of the victims acknowledged that scammers reached them through email messages.
The top three states that have the most per capita rate of fraud reported are Colorado, Delaware and Maryland as first, second and third, respectively.
Generally, FTC discovered that people are either more willing to file complaints or they simply have more complaints now. The total amount of complaints they have received has increased by over 20% -- from 1.5 million to 1.8 million in 2011 -- that includes both identity theft and fraud complaints.
The following is the complete list of FTC's top 10 consumer complaints for the year 2011:
1. Identity theft
2. Debt collection
3. Lotteries, sweepstakes, prizes
4. Catalog sales, shop-at-home,
5. Lenders and Banks
6. Internet services
7. Auto-related complaints
8. Impostor scams
9. Mobile and telephone services
10. Credit protection/repair and advance-fee loans