Identity Theft Is 2013’s Top Consumer Complaint
The recently released Consumer Sentinel Data Book for 2013 shows the variety of identity theft complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The report is a compilation of self-reported fraud complaints from consumers who filed complaints directly with the FTC as well as various other entities, including attorneys general of several states and the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Identity theft was the #1 complaint reported to the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) for the 14th year in a row. The category of debt collection ranked second in the number of complaints and from our experience we suspect some of those complaints are related to identity theft as well.
Types of Identity Theft
The report categorizes the various types of identity theft complaints received by the CSN in 2013. Here we look at the various categories and the percentage of identity theft complaints for which each category accounted.
1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (33.9%) – includes tax or wage related fraud, government benefits applied for or received, other government documents issued or forged and driver’s licenses issued or forged. Last year’s ranking was also first within the identity theft category.
Example: tax refund obtained by filing a fraudulent tax return using victim’s Social Security number.
2. Credit Card Fraud (16.9%) – includes both reports of new unauthorized accounts and the nauthorized use of existing accounts.
Example: credit card account opened by the unauthorized use of the victim’s Social Security number and name.
3. Phone or Utilities Fraud (13.5%) – includes new unauthorized accounts for utility, wireless and phone services as well as unauthorized charges to existing accounts.
Example: satellite TV, cell phone, water services, etc. obtained by unauthorized use of another’s identifiers.
4. Bank Fraud (7.7%) – includes unauthorized electronic funds transfers and new accounts as well as unauthorized activity within existing accounts.
Example: a counterfeit check is created with the victim’s account information and presented for payment to a retailer.
5. Employment-Related Fraud (5.6%) – occurs when someone obtains employment using part or all of another person’s personal identifiers such as Social Security number.
6. Loan Fraud (3.9%) – includes all types of loans (business, personal, educational, auto, real estate) obtained by use of another’s personal identifiers.
Example: a mortgage obtained by someone who used another’s personal identifiers on the application.
The category of Other Identity Theft consisted of 23.5% of the reported complaints. This category contains more unique types of identity theft not listed above such as medical, housing rental, insurance and bankruptcy.
Complaints about Attempted Identity Theft (7.2%) were also collected.
Remember: There are a variety of ways an identity thief can misuse a victim’s personal identifiers. Using this data and gaining awareness of each type can lead to better risk reduction practices.
When reviewing complaints per capita, Florida, Georgia and California took the top three spots in the 2013 ranking. However, if we look at the top three states with the most complaints (not compared to population) then we find that California, Florida and Texas were the top three states in 2013. South Dakota and North Dakota ranked 49th and 50th both in per capita ranking and per number of complaints.
Ages of Victims
The report also shows that of those complainants who gave their age, all age groups were represented. The age groups and percentage of complaints were defined as follows:
19 and under: 6%
70 and Older: 8%
While many people assume the very young or the very old are the most likely to be victimized, this data demonstrates that, in fact, people of any age can find themselves the victim of identity theft.