ID theft tops list of fraud complaints

Internet-related fraud accounted for 46 percent of all fraud complaints reported to FTC in 2005, agency says.

Identity theft continues to plague consumers, topping the list of fraud complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year.

Consumers filed more than 255,000 identity theft reports to the FTC in 2005, accounting for more than a third of all complaints, the agency said Wednesday. Bogus Internet auctions, foreign money offers, catalog sales and sweepstakes rounded out the top five fraud categories. Also on the list were fake Internet and telephone services.

In all, Internet-related complaints accounted for 46 percent of all fraud reports, the agency said. Internet fraud that involves wire transfers is on the rise. The percentage of such incidents has tripled since 2003, according to the FTC.

Yet studies have shown that most identity theft, including the most severe cases, has nothing to do with the Internet . In 2004, computer crimes accounted for only 11.6 percent of identity fraud in which the cause was known, according to a Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research study. Half of those crimes stemmed from spyware, software that surreptitiously tracks users online.

In addition, few people whose personal information has been exposed via computers are ever victimized, despite all the attention the media has paid to the issue.

According to the FTC, electronic fund transfers were the most frequently reported type of bank fraud tied to identity theft. But most ID thieves target credit cards, followed by phone or utilities accounts, bank accounts and employers.

The metropolitan areas of Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Bernardino, Calif., reported the highest per capita rates of identity theft, the FTC said.

Consumers filed complaints online or via a toll-free number. The FTC shares the data with more than 1,400 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as law enforcement and consumer protection agencies in Canada and Australia.

 

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