THE MAGAZINE

Rising Trend of Fraud, ID Theft

More than 635,000 complaints were made in 2004 to Consumer Sentinel, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint database. Of these, 61 percent represented fraud, and the remainder identity theft.

Of the reported frauds, Internet auctions were the most common type, representing 16 percent of all claims, followed by problems with shop-at-home and catalog sales. The median monetary loss was estimated to be $259, making total losses in excess of $547 million. In the cases where the method of initial contact with the fraud victim was reported, more than half came from e-mail and Web-based solicitations (30 percent were phone and mail solicitations). In terms of identity theft, credit-card fraud led the pack with 28 percent of claims, followed by phone and utilities fraud (19 percent) and bank fraud (18 percent).

While the number of complaints has increased steadily, from 403,688 in 2002 and 542,378 in 2003, the relative proportions have remained the same, with identity-theft complaints down 1 percent last year compared to the previous years.

The report, National and State Trends in Fraud & Identity Theft, breaks down complaints by state. Consumer Sentinel receives contributions from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, attorneys general offices, and other sources such as Better Business Bureaus. @ Link to the Consumer Sentinel report via SM Online.

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