ID Theft Tops Fraud Complaints


Jul 16, 2001

E-mail, according to the complaints, is the communications medium of choice for fraudsters. Last year, 35 percent of the complaints stemmed from contact made initially through e-mail, up from 26 percent in 2003. The percentage of complaints stemming from phone calls remained at 17 percent over the past three years.

The Internet is becoming an ever-growing scam trap for Americans, with nearly half of the fraud-related complaints filed with the FTC last year having to do with online activities and accounting for $335 million in losses to consumers. Major traps include auctions, shop-at-home offers, sweepstakes and lotteries, and the foreign money offers that plague nearly every e-mail in-box.

The most common means of stealing identities is credit card fraud, according to the complaints filed with the agency. Identity thieves also took advantage of phone, utility, employment and bank records, particularly electronic funds transfers.

People in and around Phoenix, Las Vegas and Riverside, Calif., sent the highest number of complaints to Washington about identity theft last year, which is not surprising given the high levels of development in those regions, anti-fraud experts said.