Identity Theft Tops the FTC’s Complaint List

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This post comes from Victor Searcy at partner site Credit.com.

For the 14th consecutive year, identity theft is the nation’s biggest headache for consumers, topping the annual rankings of filed complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

Of more than 2 million reports filed with the federal watchdog last year, 290,056 were related to identity theft. That’s about 14 percent, but remember: Many people never report identity theft or other scams and crimes.

Roughly 1 in 3 identity theft complaints were tax- or wage-related, including the filing of bogus tax refunds.

“Americans of all ages are vulnerable to identity theft,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. But 20-somethings are an increasingly attractive target: Last year, roughly 1 in 5 identity theft-related complaints were filed by those between ages 20 and 29, the highest of any age group.

“Today’s Consumer Sentinel Report underscores something too many Americans already know firsthand: identity theft is a persistent, pernicious crime,” said Adam Levin, the co-founder and chairman of Credit.com and IdentityTheft911. “In light of the recent, unrelenting string of data breaches in the retail and higher education sectors, the number of people victimized by identity thieves is only going to grow by leaps and bounds.

“Identity thieves are going to keep coming at us through every means at their disposal, be that through illicitly acquired phone numbers or leaked emails, and they won’t stop because it continues to be extremely lucrative for them.”

Business is booming

The identity theft business is so good that there’s a glut of stolen credentials on the scammer-used black market, causing a huge price drop.

For just $25, according to a Dell SecureWorks report, scammers can now purchase “fullz”– the name for an electronic dossier containing everything needed to commit financial fraud: names, home and email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, as well as Social Security numbers and complete information on bank and credit card accounts.

That’s a 37 percent drop in “fullz” prices from just two years ago, and about half the cost from last decade. Meanwhile, a la carte prices are as low as $4 for a stolen credit card, complete with CVV security codes.

Rounding out the top 10 categories of complaints to the FTC, with total reported losses of $1.6 billion:

  • Debt collection – 204,644 complaints (10 percent).
  • Banks and lenders – 152,707 complaints (7 percent).
  • Imposter scams – 121,720 complaints (6 percent).
  • Telephone and mobile services – 116,261 complaints (6 percent).
  • Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries – 89,944 complaints (4 percent).
  • Auto-related complaints – 82,701 complaints (4 percent).
  • Shop-at-home and catalog sales – 66,024 complaints (3 percent).
  • Television and electronic media – 53,087 complaints (3 percent).
  • Advance payments for credit services – 50,422 complaints (2 percent).

Getting scammed by an identity thief is no fun. If you’re worried about becoming an identity theft victim, you can pay for a credit monitoring service or you can monitor your credit for free using a tool like the Credit Report Card.

The Report Card updates two of your credit scores every month. Any major, unexpected change in your scores could signal identity theft and you should pull copies of your credit reports (you can do this for free once a year) to look for fraudulent accounts that were opened in your name.

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