Top Consumer Complaints 2011

Mar 22, 2012 by

The Federal Trade Commission published recently its 2012 edition of the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. As the title implies, this stuff is attractive mostly to wonks and nerds, which explains why I read it.

Consumer Sentinel Network

The CSN is an online database, launched in 1997 and available only to law enforcement, of consumer complaints related to fraud and identity theft. The database now holds around seven million complaints, but complaints older than five years are periodically purged.

1.8 million complaints were logged into the CSN in 2011. The database reflects far more than complaints received directly by the FTC. Several state agencies, the Postal Inspection Service, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Better Business Bureau, Western Union, the Identity Theft Assistance Center, and many more organizations contribute data.

Frequency of Complaints

Bureaucracies being keen to slice and dice, the Data Book includes a multitude of fascinating (to wonks and nerds) charts and graphs. For example, the FTC has parsed 2011 complaints into thirty categories. The top five are:

  1. Identity Theft: 279,156 complaints; 15% of all
  2. Debt Collection: 180,928 complaints; 10% of all
  3. Prizes, Sweepstakes, & Lotteries: 100,208 complaints; 6% of all
  4. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales: 98,306 complaints; 5% of all
  5. Banks & Lenders: 89,341 complaints; 5% of all

Miscellaneous Tidbits

The Data Book includes these somewhat surprising facts:

  • 23% of all complaints originated with the allegedly ultra-savvy age 20-29 group.
  • The top five states for “fraud & other” complaints were, in order: Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada (one non-surprise), and Virginia.
  • The top five states for identity theft complaints were: Florida, Georgia, California, Arizona, and Texas. What else do these five states have in common? Aside from including the letter “a” and being temperate, I can’t think of anything.
  • You’d never guess the #1 metropolitan area for per capita “fraud & other” consumer complaints: Greeley, Colorado.
  • The #1 metro area for identity theft is more predictable: Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Florida. But #2 is Montgomery, Alabama, capital of ‘good ol’ boy’ country.
  • The top three identity theft complaints were 1) credit card fraud, 2) government documents or benefits fraud, and 3) phone or utilities fraud.

The link at the top of this post will take you to the report where you can pore over all the details.

What About You?

Were you a victim of fraud or identity theft in 2011? Did you report it? Have you made any changes to better protect yourself?

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