FTC: Identity theft still top consumer blight

Florida, Georgia worst identity theft states

The Federal Trade Commission has released its annual list of top consumer complaints and for the fourth year in a row identity theft leads the pack.

Of more than 1.8 million complaints filed in 2011, 279,156 or 15%, were identity theft complaints and of those close to 25% were related to tax- or wage-related fraud.  Florida is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints, followed by Georgia and California.   Maine, South Dakota and North Dakota were least likely places for identity theft.

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Some other identity theft related facts from the FTC report:

  • Government documents/benefits fraud (27%) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by credit card fraud (14%), phone or utilities fraud (13%), and bank fraud (9%). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were employment fraud (8%) and loan fraud (3%).
  • Complaints about government documents/benefits fraud increased 11 percentage points since calendar year 2009; identity theft-related credit card fraud complaints, on the other hand, declined 3 percentage points since calendar year 2009.
  • Forty-five percent of identity theft complainants reported whether they contacted law enforcement. Of those victims, 70% notified a police department. Fifty-seven percent indicated a report was taken.

The IRS recently said identity theft was one of its "Dirty Dozen" tax scams saying that the agency is increasingly seeing identity thieves looking for ways to use a legitimate taxpayer's identity and personal information to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. The IRS has embarked on a comprehensive strategy that is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. In addition to the law-enforcement crackdown, the IRS has stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued as well as working to help victims of the identity theft refund schemes.

More: IRS: Top 10 things every taxpayer should know about identity theft

Rounding out the FTC Top 10 consumer complaints for 2011:

  • Debt Collection Complaints 180,928 10 %
  • Prizes, Sweepstakes, and Lotteries 100,208 6 %
  • Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales 98,306 5 %
  • Banks and Lenders 89,341 5 %
  • Internet Services 81,805 5 %
  • Auto Related Complaints 77,435 4 %
  • Imposter Scams 73,281 4 %
  • Telephone and Mobile Services 70,024 4 %
  • Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection/Repair 47,414 3 %

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