Identity theft tops consumer complaint list in 2013: FTC

The Federal Trade Commission says it received nearly 300,000 identity-theft complaints from consumers last year, easily outpacing gripes about debt collectors, banks and mobile service providers.
Written by Larry Barrett, Contributor

Crooked auto mechanics, obnoxious debt collectors and garden-variety scam artists all bring a potent dose of misery to American consumers every day, but it's the identity thieves who are really driving them insane.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received 290,016 identity-theft complaints from consumers – or 14 percent of the more than 2 million total complaints. The next closest complaint category, debt collectors, checked in at 10 percent of all grievances followed by banks and lenders (7 percent), imposter scams (6 percent) and telephone and mobile services (6 percent).

Keep in mind, these figures only account for the people who actually took the time to call the FTC or report a complaint on its website.

High-profile incidents such as the massive breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other popular retailers keep fueling the identify theft fire, providing cybercrooks with fresh banking and personal information to perpetuate their illicit craft and giving consumers more reasons to freak out.

"Americans of all ages are vulnerable to identity theft, and it remains the most common consumer complaint to the Commission," Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the FTC report.

In total, Americans reported losing more than $1.6 billion to fraud of all types last year. Of the identity theft complaints, 30 percent were tax- or wage-related – the largest subsector within the category.

Twenty percent of identity theft complaints were filed by people 20-29 years of age, suggesting that millennials are either the most popular targets of cyberthieves, the most likely to put their data at risk, the most willing to take the time to file a complaint or a combination of all three factors.

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