FTC Releases Top 10 Consumer Fraud Complaint Categories

Identity Theft Again Leads the List

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission today released its annual report detailing consumer complaints about fraud and identity theft in 2005. Complaints about identity theft topped the list, accounting for 255,000 of more than 686,000 complaints filed with the agency in 2005. The complaints, filed online or at a toll-free number, are shared via a secure database with more than 1,400 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and law enforcement and consumer protection agencies in Canada and Australia.

“With a call or a click, consumers can file complaints with law enforcers across the country and around the world,” said Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the FTC. “These reports provide ammunition that helps law enforcers fight fraud and identity theft.”

Identity theft complaints represented 37 percent of the 686,683 complaints filed. Other top categories of fraud complaints for 2005 include:

  • Internet Auctions - 12 percent
  • Foreign Money Offers - 8 percent
  • Shop-at-Home/Catalog Sales - 8 percent
  • Prizes/Sweepstakes and Lotteries - 7 percent
  • Internet Services and Computer Complaints - 5 percent
  • Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home plans - 2 percent
  • Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection - 2 percent
  • Telephone Services - 2 percent
  • Other - 17 percent

Other findings from the report include:

  • Internet-related complaints accounted for 46 percent of all fraud complaints.
  • The percent of Internet-related fraud complaints with “wire transfer” as the reported payment method more than tripled between 2003 and 2005.
  • The major metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of consumer fraud reported were Washington, DC; Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, FL; and Seattle, WA.
  • Credit card fraud was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, and employment fraud.
  • The most frequently reported type of identity theft bank fraud was electronic funds transfers.
  • The major metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of reported identity theft were Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, AZ; Las Vegas/Paradise, NV; and Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA.

Consumers can test their knowledge about identity theft at www.onguardonline.gov/quiz.

The FTC maintains a Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft that is a one-stop national resource where consumers can learn about the crime of identity theft. It provides detailed information to help consumers protect themselves from identity theft, and the steps to take if it occurs. It is also a comprehensive reference center – for consumers, businesses, law enforcement, and the media – with access to specific laws, contact information, and resources 
from state and federal government agencies.

Copies of the report, “Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data” are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel/pubs/Top10Fraud2005.pdf and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,400 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Claudia Bourne Farrell,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2181
Staff Contact:
Jay M. Miller,
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3196