Well, maybe not everything. But the Federal Trade Commission just released the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book report on calendar year 2013. The Consumer Sentinel Network is a secure online database of millions of consumer complaints filed with the FTC as well as with 16 state law enforcement agencies. The annual report sheds some light on where the action is in the world of consumer fraud.
And there is plenty of action. Since 2009, CSN has collected over 9 million complaints. In 2013, there were 2 million consumer complaints collected. And that total doesn't even include “Do Not Call” complaints, which CSN compiles separately. Since 2009, there have been 13 million do not call complaints registered. That probably speaks as much as anything to the sheer persistence of the typical telemarketer.
The FTC puts the reported complaints into 30 different categories, de pending on the substance of the complaint. And it may come as no surprise that the number one category for 2013 was identity theft."' It accounted for 14% of the overall number of complaints. “Debt collection" came in second at 10%, with “banks and lenders" winning the bronze medal at 7%.
Government documents\benefits fraud (34%) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by credit card fraud (17%), phone or utilities fraud (14%), and bank fraud (8%). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were employment-related fraud (6%) and loan fraud (4%).
One half of the registered complaints had something to do with fraud, and consumers got swindled out of $1.6 billion in the aggregate. In the reports that listed the initial method of contact, telephone led the way, with 40 % of the complaining consumers noting that they were first contacted via telephone. In 33% of the cases, e mail was the initial method. Further demonstrating the demise of snail mail, only 5% of the consumers cited the mail as the initial contact point
Florida had the highest per capita rate of reported fraud, followed by Nevada and Georgia. I suppose Florida will not change its name from the “Sunshine State.” “Gullible State" just doesn't have the same ring.
So, the lesson seems clear - if you're in Florida and you get a phone call about government benefits, hang up. You don't want to be another statistic.