Identity Theft Tops Annual FTC List of National Consumer Complaints for 13th Consecutive Year

Identity theft in general – and tax- or wage-related fraud in particular – has once again topped the list of complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the 13th consecutive year in the annual FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January – December 2012. The report, which marks the first year the FTC received more than 2 million complaints overall, found that 369,132 complaints – or 18 percent –  were related to identity theft, with more than 43 percent of those complaints related to tax- or wage-related fraud. The FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for 2012 is available at

According to a press release from the FTC – the government agency working for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices – the FTC enters complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN), a secure online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. that use the data to research cases, identify victims, and track possible targets. The report gives national data, a state-by-state accounting of top complaint categories, and a listing of metropolitan areas generating the most complaints.

The FTC’s Top 10 Complaint Categories for 2012, including the number of total complaints as well as the percentage of overall complaints, are:

  • 1. Identity Theft (369,132 complaints – 18 percent)
  • 2. Debt collection (199,721 complaints – 10 percent)
  • 3. Banks and Lenders (132,340 complaints – 6 percent)
  • 4. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (115,184 complaints – 6 percent)
  • 5. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (98,479 complaints – 5 percent)
  • 6. Impostor Scams (82,896 complaints – 4 percent)
  • 7. Internet Services (81,438 complaints – 4 percent)
  • 8. Auto-Related Complaints (78,062 complaints – 4 percent)
  • 9. Telephone and Mobile Services (76,783 complaints – 4 percent)
  • 10. Credit Cards (51,550 complaints – 3 percent)

Begun in 1997 to collect fraud and identity theft complaints, the CSN now has more than 8 million complaints, including those about credit reports, debt collection, mortgages, and lending, among other subjects. Other federal and state law enforcement agencies contributing to the CSN include the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center and the offices of 14 state attorneys general. Several private-sector organizations also contribute data. Consumer Sentinel Network Reports from previous years are available at

As previously reported on the ESR News blog, identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints released by the FTC in 2011 for the 12th year in a row. Of more than 1.8 million complaints filed in 2011, 279,156 – or 15 percent – were identity theft complaints, and nearly 25 percent of those identity theft complaints were related tax- or wage-related fraud. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ – is a nationwide screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at, call toll free 888.999.4474, or email


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