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Identity Theft Tops FTC List of Consumer Fraud Complaints in 2003

Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act Cements Consumer Protection Standards

New York, Jan 22, 2004

During a national press conference on January 22, 2004, Howard Beales, director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection announced the top 10 consumer complaint categories of 2003. For the fourth year in a row, identity theft topped the list, accounting for 42 percent of the complaints lodged in the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database. The FTC received more than half a million complaints in 2003, up from 404,000 in 2002, and Internet-related complaints accounted for 55 percent of all fraud reports, up from 45 percent in 2002.

The top 10 categories of consumer fraud complaints in 2003 include:

  • Internet Auctions - 15 percent
  • Shop-at-Home/Catalog Sales - 9 percent
  • Internet Services and Computer Complaints - 6 percent
  • Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries - 5 percent
  • Foreign Money Offers - 4 percent
  • Advance Fee Loans and Credit Protection - 4 percent
  • Telephone Services - 3 percent
  • Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home Plans - 2 percent
  • Magazine Buyers Clubs - 1 percent
  • Office Supplies and Services - 1 percent

In an effort to protect consumers’ rights and address the rise in identity theft, on December 4, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA). FACTA protects consumers’ rights when applying for a mortgage or other form of credit, enhances the accuracy of consumers’ financial information, and helps to fight identity theft.

FACTA makes permanent the uniform national consumer protection standards of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which promotes accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of every consumer reporting agency. Those standards were established to set clear rules on what credit agencies were entitled to include in individual credit reports, but included an expiration. This legislation makes those national standards permanent.

FACTA includes several provisions to combat identity theft, and to enhance accuracy and consumer access to credit information. The legislation helps to prevent identity theft before it occurs by requiring merchants to leave all but the last five digits of a credit card number off store receipts. This law will make sure that slips of paper that most people throw away do not contain their credit card number, a key to their financial identities.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database provides about 630 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Canada and Australia with access to one million complaints, empowering and support law enforcement efforts.

Consumers can file fraud complaints online at www.ftc.gov. Identity theft victims, or people seeking tips to avoid being a victim, can log on at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

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