NEWS

Identity Theft: The Number One Consumer Complaint in 2011

By Carlton Purvis

Identity theft was the number one consumer complaint from consumers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the 12th year in a row.

The FTC tracks and records complaints into Consumer Sentinel, an online database used to track targets and research cases. Of more than 1.8 million complaints filed with the FTC in 2011, nearly 15 percent were identity theft complaints.

Twenty-five percent of those were tax or wage related, according to data from the FTC’s annual Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book released on Tuesday. The Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metro area ranked number one for most identity theft crimes.

Thirty percent of identity theft victims never notified police, according to Consumer Sentinel Data. However, Consumer Sentinel Data is accessible by law enforcement agencies for investigations. And data from Consumer Sentinel can be added by about a dozen other agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service, the Department of Justice Internet Crime Complaint Center, and all U.S. and Canadian members of the Better Business Bureau.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released a new version of HTTPS Everywhere, a Web browsing tool for Firefox and Google Chrome browsers, that automatically encrypts communication with major Web sites to help protect user information from monitoring and hijacking of data that can lead to identity theft.

The new version, HTTPS Everywhere 2.0 for Firefox, has a feature that warns a user when they’re visiting a Web site that has security vulnerabilities, flagging sites that are vulnerable to eavesdropping or man in the middle attacks.

"In recent weeks, an unexpected weakness in the encryption used by many routers, firewalls and VPN devices made big news," said EFF Technology Projects Director Peter Eckersley. "The new version of HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox will let users know when they connect to a website or device that has a security problem--including weak key problems like the ones that were disclosed two weeks ago--giving people the information they need to protect themselves."

The browser extension has been downloaded in more than one million homes since its launch in 2010, according to an EFF press release distributed on Tuesday.


photo by altemark/flickr

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