FTC Releases Top 10 Consumer Complaint Categories for 2004

Identity Theft Again Tops the List

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission today released its annual report detailing consumer complaints about identity theft and listing the top 10 categories of fraud-related complaints filed with the FTC in 2004. For the fifth year in a row, identity theft topped the list of complaints, accounting for 39 percent of the 635,173 consumer fraud complaints filed with the agency last year.

Consumers can file fraud and identity theft complaints by going to the FTC’s home page at www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters consumer complaints and complaints from other law enforcement and consumer protection agencies in its Consumer Sentinel database. The data is accessible to more than 1,200 law enforcement agencies across the country and in Canada and Australia. The information helps law enforcers coordinate actions, avoid duplication, spot trends, and leverage law enforcement assets.

“These are real people who have lost real money and the FTC offers them a direct link to finding a solution,” said Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. “By filing complaints, consumers are one click away from thousands of law enforcement partners who can help restore their good name, protect their financial security, and give the FTC the information we need to stop fraud in its tracks.”

The top categories of consumer fraud complaints for 2004 include:

  • Internet Auctions - 16 percent
  • Shop-at-Home/Catalog Sales - 8 percent
  • Internet Services and Computer Complaints - 6 percent
  • Foreign Money Offers - 6 percent
  • Prizes/Sweepstakes and Lotteries - 5 percent
  • Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection - 3 percent
  • Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home - 2 percent
  • Telephone Services - 2 percent
  • Other (miscellaneous) - 12 percent

Other findings from the report include:

  • Of the 635,173 complaints received in 2004, 246,570 were identity theft reports and 388,603 were fraud complaints.
  • Internet-related complaints accounted for 53 percent of all reported fraud complaints.
  • The major metropolitan areas with the highest per-capita rates of complaints concerning consumer fraud were Washington, DC; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; and Las Vegas-Paradise, NV.
  • Credit card fraud was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, and employment fraud.
  • The major metropolitan areas with the highest per-capita rates of reported identity theft were Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ; Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA; and Las Vegas-Paradise, NV.

Copies of the report, “National and State Trends in Fraud and Identity Theft,” are available online at http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel/pubs/Top10Fraud2004.pdf and 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 hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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