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For the fifth year in a row identity theft has topped the list of fraud-related complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency said Tuesday.
The FTC's report also said Internet auctions ranked as the top category for reported consumer fraud.
In its annual report titled, "National and State Trends in Fraud and Identity Theft January -- December 2004," the FTC said identity theft and fraud complaints rose by 17 percent between 2003 and 2004 (from 542,378 in 2003 to 635,173 in 2004).
Out the total complaints filed with the FTC in 2004, 39 percent of them were about identity theft, which represents a 1 percent decline from the 215,095 identity theft complaints in 2003. The other 61 percent of the complaints were fraud-related, the FTC said.
The most common form of reported identity theft was credit card fraud, followed by phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, and employment fraud rounding out the list.
Leading the charge list of fraud complaints were Internet-related complaints, which accounted for 53 percent of fraud complaints reported to the FTC in 2004 at 205,568 complaints. The value of Internet fraud calculated in the 71-page report amounted to over $265 million in 2004.
The Internet is also being used by criminals in 57 percent of reported cases as the initial point of contact and solicitations; e-mail represented 35 percent of the complaints and the Web was implicated in 22 percent.
The FTC statistics were derived from consumer complaints made to consumer protection agencies and law enforcement and are tracked in its Consumer Sentinel database. Identity theft and fraud complaints can also be filed on the FTC site at www.ftc.gov. The Consumer Sentinel data were made available by the FTC to law enforcement agencies across the US, Canada and Australia to help them coordinate actions and spot trends.
"By filing complaints, consumers are one click away from thousands of law enforcement partners who can help restore their good name, protect their financial security, and give the FTC the information we need to stop fraud in its tracks," FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said in a statement.