Written By Thomas Ahearn
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that identity theft has topped the list of national consumer complaints once again for 2013 and that U.S. consumers reported losing more than $1.6 billion to fraud overall. The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) Data Book 2013 found that 290,056 of the more than two million complaints received – 14 percent – were identity theft related. The CSN report is available at http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/consumer-sentinel-network-data-book-january-december-2013/sentinel-cy2013.pdf.
“Americans of all ages are vulnerable to identity theft, and it remains the most common consumer complaint to the Commission. We urge consumers to visit FTC.gov/idtheft for tips to prevent and mitigate the damage from identity theft,” Jessica Rich, director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated in a press release about the announcement available at http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/02/ftc-announces-top-national-consumer-complaints-2013.
The top 10 complaint categories as reported in the CSN Data Book 2013 include:
- 1. Identity Theft: 290,056 Complaints (14%)
- 2. Debt Collection: 204,644 Complaints (10%)
- 3. Banks and Lenders: 152,707 Complaints (7%)
- 4. Imposter Scams: 121,720 Complaints (6%)
- 5. Telephone and Mobile Services: 116,261 Complaints (6%)
- 6. Prizes, Sweepstakes, and Lotteries: 89,944 Complaints (4%)
- 7. Auto Related Complaints: 82,701 Complaints (4%)
- 8. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales: 66,024 Complaints (3%)
- 9. Television and Electronic Media: 53,087 Complaints (3%)
- 10. Advance Payment for Credit Services: 50,422 Complaints (2%)
The report on consumer complaints found the highest reported age group for identity theft was 20-29 years, accounting for 20 percent of complaints. The report also detailed a state-by-state accounting of top complaint categories and a listing of the metropolitan areas generating the most complaints. Florida had the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft and fraud complaints, followed by Georgia and California.
The Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) is a secure online database that is available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country. Agencies use the data to research cases, identify victims and track possible targets. Victims of identity theft or other fraud-related issues may file a complaint online with the FTC’s Complaint Assistant at http://www.ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).
U.S. employers are coming under increased pressure to protect the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of job applicants due to increased media focus on identity theft and the “offshoring” of information gathered for background checks overseas beyond U.S. privacy laws. In 2014 employers may need to closely examine their processes in the area of protecting PII when it comes to background checks. This trend is one of the Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) ‘Top Ten Background Check Trends’ for 2014. For more information about the trends, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends.
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The Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including “Ban the Box,” credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at firstname.lastname@example.org.