Identity theft is top consumer complaint in 2007
Identity theft was the No. 1 consumer complaint nationwide and in New York State last year for the seventh year in a row, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission.
New Yorkers filed 19,319 identity-theft complaints last year, accounting for 32 percent of consumer complaints. The bulk of the cases involved phone, utilities and credit-card fraud. New York had the sixth-highest identity-theft rate among the 50 states, with 100 complaints for every 100,000 residents.
Nationwide, Americans filed nearly 814,000 complaints of consumer fraud and identity theft, according to a report compiled from the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database of complaints collected from the FTC and more than 125 other organizations, including the FBI. Losses from consumer fraud exceeded $1.2 billion, the report said.
Tom Cohn, director of the FTC’s Northeast region, noted that President George W. Bush launched a task force in 2006 to coordinate efforts among various government agencies to combat identity theft.
After identity theft, the top complaints nationally and in the state are shop-at-home and catalog sales, Internet services and foreign-money offers.
The majority the cases of the fraud originated online — 49 percent via e-mail and 15 percent through Web sites.
Increasingly, thieves are luring consumers to send money via wire transfer, a transaction that consumers can’t reverse and is difficult to trace. Twenty-eight percent of consumer fraud complaints involved wire transfers as the payment method, up from 23 percent in 2006. Many times the money is sent abroad, said Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer at the SANS Institute, a computer security educational organization in Bethesda, Md.
“What that reflects is the increase of these professional scams,” he said. “You don’t really have kids with their home computer doing it in their spare time.”
The Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York released the industries that received the top complaints on Long Island.
Financial services topped the list, mainly because of debt collection, said Claire Rosenzweig, president and chief executive of the bureau. Second was mail-order services, mainly consumers complaining about problems with magazine subscriptions, she said. No. 3 with complaints was the home improvement industry, involving credit, billing and workmanship, she said.
STATEWIDE FRAUD COMPLAINTS
Top consumer fraud complaints
ID theft 19,319
Home shopping/catalog sales 3,785
Internet services 2,332
Foreign money offers 1,720
Computer equipment, software 1,676
Internet auctions 1,659
More than 70% of fraud complaints involve ID theft
Top types of ID theft
Phone, utilities fraud 5,404
Credit card fraud 4,934
Government documents, benefits fraud 2,096
Bank fraud 1,942
Employment-related fraud 1,371
Loans fraud 901
54% of ID theft involves phone and credit card fraud
NOTE: Some victims report experiencing more than one type of theft.
SOURCE: FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION CONSUMER FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT COMPLAINT DATA