Identity Theft Tops FTC’s Consumer Complaint Categories Again in 2014

Agency Also Notes a Large Increase in Complaints About “Imposter” Scams

For Release

Identity theft topped the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints for the 15th consecutive year, while the agency also recorded a large increase in the number of complaints about so-called “imposter” scams, according to the FTC's 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, which was released today.

Imposter scams – in which con artists impersonate government officials or others – moved into third place on the list of consumer complaints, entering the top three complaint categories for the first time. The increase in imposter scams was led by a sharp jump in complaints about IRS and other government imposter scams. Debt collection held steady as the second-most-reported complaint.

“While identity theft remains a huge issue, consumers should also keep a close eye out for imposter scams,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Whether it’s pretending to be the IRS during tax season, or making false promises of a lottery win, scammers are increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to deceive consumers, but the FTC will continue working to shut these scammers down.”

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book is produced annually using complaints received by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network. That includes not only complaints made directly by consumers to the FTC, but also complaints received by state and federal law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations and non-governmental organizations.

The report includes not only national data but also a state-by-state accounting of top complaint categories and a listing of the metropolitan areas that generated the most complaints. In 2014, 2,582,851 complaints were entered into the Consumer Sentinel Network. Florida was the top source of complaints per capita both for identity theft, and fraud and other complaints. For fraud and other complaints, Georgia and Nevada had the second and third highest per capita complaint rates, while Washington and Oregon were in the second and third position for identity theft complaints.

The complaint categories making up the top 10 are:

  Number Percent
Identity Theft     332,646  13 percent
Debt Collection 280,998 11 percent
Imposter Scams  276,662 11 percent
Telephone and Mobile Services  171,809 7 percent
Banks and Lenders        128,107 5 percent
Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries   103,579  4 percent
Auto-Related Complaints    88,334 3 percent
Shop-At-Home and Catalog Sales 71,377 3 percent
Television and Electronic Media   48,640 2 percent
Internet Services    46,039 2 percent

A complete list of all complaint categories is available on page six of the report.

The Consumer Sentinel Network’s secure online database is available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country and abroad. Agencies use the data to research cases, identify victims and track possible targets.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

Jay Mayfield
Office of Public Affairs

David Torok
Bureau of Consumer Protection