For the 13th consecutive year, identity theft was the top complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission, followed again by complaints about debt collections.
The FTC's annual report listed more than 2 million complaints in 2012, topping that number for the first time. Of the total, 18%, or 369,132 were related to identity theft - including nearly half specifying tax- or wage-related fraud.
Complaints about debt collections included 10% of the total, or 199,721. That total included 178,009 dealing with third-party collections, up about 20,000 over 2011, and 23,197 involving the internal collection efforts of creditors.
The overall growth rate for collection complaints slowed - increasing 11% in 2012 compared with a 32% jump in 2011 and a 25% increase in 2010.
The report provides national data, as well as a state-by-state accounting of top complaint categories and a listing of the metropolitan areas that generated the most complaints. This includes the top 50 metropolitan areas for both fraud complaints and identity theft complaints.
The remainder of complaint categories making up the top 10 are: Banks and Lenders, 132,340; Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales, 115,184; Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries, 98,479; Impostor Scams, 82,896; Internet Services, 81,438; Auto-Related Complaints, 78,062; Telephone and Mobile Services, 76,783; and Credit Cards, 51,550.
The FTC enters complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database that is available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country. Agencies use the data to research cases, identify victims and track possible targets.
Other federal and state law enforcement agencies contribute to Consumer Sentinel, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the offices of 14 state attorneys general. Private-sector organizations contributing data include all Better Business Bureaus in the U.S. and Canada, PrivacyStar, Publishers Clearing House and others.