Imposters have overtaken identity thieves to become the nation’s top fraudsters, according to the latest consumer complaint data from the FTC.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel project, which tallies up the number and type of consumer complaints received each year, reported more than 3 million imposters in 2016. Debt collection remains the No. 1 complaint, accounting for some 28 percent of reported complaints. However, the bulk of debt-collection complaints involve overly aggressive collection tactics, not fraud.
When it comes to consumer frauds, impostor scams are now leading the list, having passed ID theft for the first time since 1997. And although not all consumers report their losses, those that did got taken for $744.5 million in total, with the average loss at $1,124, the FTC said.
Nearly 150,000 complaints were logged regarding Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries, making up 5% of the total complaints received in 2016. Other categories receiving tens of thousands of complaints included Shop-At-Home and Catalog Sales, Auto-Related Complaints, Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users, and Television and Electronic Media.
Almost 1.3 million complaints were fraud-related. Consumers reported paying more than $744 million in those fraud complaints; the median amount paid was $450. Fifty-one percent of the consumers who reported a fraud-related complaint also reported an amount paid.
Fifty-five percent of all fraud-related complaints reported the method of initial contact. Of those complaints, 77% said the telephone and 8% said e-mail. Only 3% of those consumers reported mail as the initial point of contact.
Florida is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported fraud and other types of complaints, followed by Georgia and Michigan.
Employment-or Tax-related fraud (34%) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by credit card fraud (33%), phone or utilities fraud (13%), and bank fraud (12%). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were loan or lease fraud (7%) and government documents or benefits fraud (7%).
Twenty-seven percent of identity theft complainants reported they contacted law enforcement. Of those victims, 87% indicated a report was taken.
Michigan is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints, followed by Florida and Delaware.
Top 10 Fraud Complaint Categories for 2016
- Debt Collection, 859,090 complaints
- Imposter Scams, 406,578 complaints
- Identity Theft, 399,225 complaints
- Telephone and Mobile Services, 292,155 complaints
- Banks and Lenders, 143,987 complaints
- Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries, 141,643 complaints
- Shop-at-home and Catalog Sales, 109,831 complaints
- Auto-Related Complaints, 94,673 complaints
- Credit Bureaus, 49,679 complaints
- Television and Electronic Media, 49,546 complaints
The full report is at https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/consumer-sentinel-network/reports