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ID theft again tops FTC fraud complaint list

Jeremy Simon

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission unveiled its list of leading consumer fraud complaints for 2007. Topping the FTC’s complaint list for the seventh-straight year: identity theft. Out of the more than 800,000 complaints received, “32 percent were identity theft complaints and 68 percent were related to other types of fraud,” the FTC said.

id-theft-ftc-fraud-complaint.jpgOn a year-over-year basis, data from the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel complaint database showed that the number of identity fraud reports increased. But when considered as a percentage of overall fraud complaints, ID fraud actually declined from 37 percent in both 2005 and 2006.

Among the 258,427 identity theft complaints the FTC received, the most frequent type was credit card fraud. “Credit card fraud (23 percent) was the most common form of reported identity theft followed by phone or utilities fraud (18 percent), employment fraud (14 percent) and bank fraud (13 percent),” the FTC said.

Elsewhere, a recent report from Javelin Strategy & Research actually showed a decline in identity fraud (defined as “the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information to achieve illicit financial gain”) across much of the United States in 2007, with overall ID fraud down by an estimated 12 percent from the prior year. Javelin said that just 3.58 percent of U.S. adults fell victim to identity fraud last year.

One possible reason for the decline in identity theft? That could be the coupling of consumer awareness with the introduction of new products to make ID scams harder on would-be fraudsters. Among the latest of these, Equifax just this week announced a free, online offering for possible identity theft victims that prompts lenders to take additional steps to verify the consumer has authorized the opening of a credit account, an increase to a credit limit or the acquisition of a new card on an existing account.

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