ID theft remains top concern for consumers

The number of reported ID thefts dips, but it still accounts for more than a third of complaints to FTC.

Identity theft fraud accounted for slightly more than a third of all complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year.

Identity theft complaints, which include credit card fraud, bank fraud, as well as phone and utilities fraud, accounted for 36 percent of the total 674,354 complaints submitted to the FTC and its external data contributors last year, according to a report released Wednesday by the FTC. The results come at a time when ID theft is a major concern among consumers and Congress.

The number of ID theft-related complaints reached 246,035 in 2006, down 3.75 percent from the previous year. But the agency cautioned that its year-to-year figures are not always comparable, given information supplied to its database comes from not only the FTC but also from a large pool of external data contributors such as the Better Business Bureau and others.

"The report serves as a warning sign," said Jay Miller, the FTC's Consumer Sentinel program manager. "Even though the complaints are what they are and not a formal survey (of whether the problem is going up or down), it still shows there's a big problem that needs a coordinated response."

Another organization also recently reported a dip in ID theft. The 2007 Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin Strategy & Research, released last week, estimated that 8.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft last year, a decrease from 8.9 million in 2005.

Credit card fraud complaints, meanwhile, continue to fuel concerns over ID theft. The FTC report, for example, found credit card fraud complaints last year accounted for 25 percent of all ID theft complaints filed to the FTC and its external data contributors.

Allegations of bank fraud, as well as phone and utilities fraud, each accounted for 16 percent of all ID theft complaints filed to the FTC and its data contributors last year, the report found.

Complaints of consumer fraud, involving such activities as catalog sales, sweepstakes and advance-fee loans, reached 223,438 last year. Internet-related fraud, another form of consumer fraud, resulted in 204,881 complaints filed to the FTC and its external data contributors last year.

In 60 percent of the reported Internet-related fraud complaints, a large percentage, 45 percent, was initiated via e-mail.

Consumers reported a total loss of $1.2 billion in 2006, due to ID theft and consumer fraud, according to complaint data collected by the FTC and external data contributors. The median loss, meanwhile, was $500.

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