Last week, I took the time to read the latest 90-page identity theft report from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The FTC issued the "Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data" report in February 2008. The report covers consumer complaints submitted to the Consumer Sentinel database during January through December 2007. Highlights:
- During 2007, the FTC received 813,899 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints; up 21% over 2006
- During 2007, consumers reported losses of $1.2 billion, slightly more than in 2006
- 3% of consumers lost more than $5,000. About 10% lost between $1,001 and $5,000
- The 5 leading complaint categories were Identity Theft (32%), Shop-at-home/Catalog Sales (8%), Internet Services (5%), Foreign Money Orders (4%), and Prizes/Sweepstakes/Lotteries (4%)
- The payment methods in these complaints included credit cards (33%), wire transfers (28%), bank account debit (17%), personal checks (10%), money orders (7%), and cash advances (3%)
- Total complaints by the age of the consumer: 40 - 49 (23%), 30 - 39 (21%), 50 - 59 (20%), and 20 - 29 (16%)
- Identity theft complaints by age of the consumer: 18-29 (28%), 30 - 39 (23%), 40 - 49 (19%), and 50 - 59 (13%)
It's important to emphasize that the above is based on actual complaints submitted by consumers, and not a survey. In my experience, most consumers do not file complaints with the FTC, so the above numbers are probably far higher.
Regardless, identity theft seems to be a growing problem since both the number of complaints and the amount of losses have increased.
Two really sad aspects to this report are a) the lack of involvement by consumers, and b) the lack of consistent response by law enforcement. 65% of victims did not file a police report. That is both sad and unacceptably high. 27% of victims did file a police report which was accepted by local law enforcement. 8% of victims tried to file a police report and it was not accepted.
Identity criminals probably feel encouraged by those results. Almost two-thirds of victims don't both filing a police report, which could aid inthe capture and prosecution of identity thieves. And, 8% of victims tried to get help from local loaw enforcement and couldn't get that help.
The report also provides statistics for identity theft victims by state:
- Arizona - 137.1 (identity theft complaints per 100,000 population)
- California - 120.1
- Nevada - 114.2
- Texas - 107.9
- Florida - 105.6
- New York - 100.1
- Georgia - 91.6
- Colorado - 89.0
- New Mexico - 87.5
- Maryland - 85.8
My state, Massachusetts, ranked #23 with 66.5 identity theft complaints per 100,000 population. North Dakota was #50 with 28.5 identity theft complaints per 100,000 population.
I'm not sure how relevant these numbers are since Internet-based identity thievery is largely geography independent