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ID theft tops league

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Identity theft topped the list of complaints received by the US Federal Trade Commission for the fifth successive year, accounting for 39 per cent of consumer fraud complaints filed with the agency last year. Credit card fraud was the most common form of reported ID theft (28 per cent), followed by phone or utilities fraud (19 per cent), bank fraud (18 per cent), and employment fraud (13 per cent).

Americans reported fraud losses of $548m to the FTC last year. Of these 635,173 complaints, 246,570 concerned ID theft and 388,603 were about other forms of fraud.

Internet-related complaints accounted for 53 per cent of fraud reports (and $265m of reported losses), with problems involving online auctions proving a particular problem. Gripes about net auctions featured in over 102,000 complaints to the FTC last year (16 per cent of total reports). The top 10 of consumer fraud complaints for 2004 also included: catalogue sales - eight per cent of total complaints; internet services and computer complaints - six per cent; foreign money offers - six per cent; prizes/sweepstakes and lotteries - five per cent; advance-fee loans and credit protection - three per cent; business opportunities and work-at-home - two per cent and telephone services - two per cent.

Consumers can file fraud and identity theft complaints on the FTC's website. The agency collates this information with data from other law enforcement and consumer protection agencies to create a comprehensive database. This information helps law enforcers co-ordinate actions, avoid duplication and spot trends in consumer fraud.

Washington DC, Las Vegas and San Jose, California were 'hot spots' for consumer fraud, according to FTC reports. Last Vegas (again); Phoenix, Arizona and San Bernardino, California generated the highest per-capita reports of ID theft. The FTC's report, National and State Trends in Fraud and Identity Theft, can be found here (PDF). ®

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