Identity theft has been in the news for some time now. It’s certainly not something any of us want to deal with, but it seems more and more people are becoming victims. In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission reported a surge in the number of cases. In fact, 26% of all complaints received by the FTC involved identity theft. This category involved the largest number of complaints to the FTC in 2008. The next biggest complaint was third party and creditor debt collection scams, which represented 9% of complaints.
According to the FTC’s annual Consumer Sentinel Network report (PDF link), there were 313,982 identity theft complaints in 2008, compared to 259,266 in 2007. The Consumer Sentinel Network is a secure online database that compiles complaints from law enforcement authorities, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Better Business Bureau, and other groups.
Below is a listing of the top 15 complaint categories along with the number of complaints received for that category. As you’ll notice, many of the complaints have a tie to the Internet.
- Identity Theft 313,982
- Third Party and Creditor Debt Collection 104,642
- Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales 52,615
- Internet Services 52,102
- Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check Scams 38,505
- Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users 34,940
- Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries 33,340
- Television and Electronic Media 25,930
- Banks and Lenders 22,890
- Telecom Equipment and Mobile Services 22,387
- Computer Equipment and Software 21,442
- Business Opportunities, Employment Agencies and Work-at-Home Plans 20,286
- Internet Auction 17,294
- Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection/Repair 17,263
- Health Care 16,275
Even though the Internet is used as a tool to carry out many attacks, it’s not the only online target: Email is the medium preferred by fraudsters. As you’ll see from the chart below, email has largely surpassed the phone and snail mail as the most popular method of contacting customers for fraudulent purposes.
It’s also interesting to note that people in their twenties are the ones who are most likely to be hit with identity theft. They have been for the past three years.
Although no state is safe, some states are hit harder by identity theft than others. Arizona tops the list with 149.0 complaints per 100,000 people. California isn’t far behind, with 139.1 complaints per 100,000 people. Florida, Texas, and Nevada round out the top five.