Taking back the ID

2018 FTC numbers paint worsening fraud picture

Three million fraud complaints in 2018. That’s what the Federal Trade Commission received — many of them for identity theft.  When we look at the stats since 2001, we see the fraud problem is worsening.

You start receiving collection calls for a loan you never opened — much less defaulted on. Your grandson’s lawyer calls from another nation, saying that the grandson will go to jail unless you wire $15,000 immediately. Later you find out the grandson hadn’t left the country in years. You click on a link in an email, later to find malware that’s hijacked your files unless you pay thousands of dollars. The IRS calls to threaten legal action on incorrect returns unless you wire money that same day.

As I’ve written in previous columns, these are common identity theft schemes. And the latest data indicates the fraud is worsening. Since 1997, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has accumulated tens of millions of complaint data from consumers and law enforcement agencies pertaining to “fraud,” “identity theft” and “other” consumer protection problems. In 2018, close to 3 million complaints were reported to the FTC. The data are stored in the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (CSNDB).

Forty data contributors — including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, more than 20 state attorneys general and all North American Better Business Bureaus — contribute reports to the CSNDB. If your law enforcement agency isn’t currently contributing data to the CSNDB, you’re strongly encouraged to become members.

Consumer data are unverified and classified into 29 different categories. Consumers can file a complaint report or through the FTC’s call/response center at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4537).

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