MORE DISTURBING STATS ON ID THEFT…THIS TIME FROM THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
The FTC has just released their 2009 report on top consumer complaints for the year 2008. For the ninth year in a row, identity theft remains a strong number one with 313,982 complaints representing 26 percent of the total received. Keep in mind: these are actual complaints filed by real victims in incidents of identity theft. In case you aren’t familiar with the procedure, here is the FTC’s site. As you can see, they are fairly thorough in their explanations and instructions to consumers who need help.
I have been told by readers of this blog that the agency is useless in their attempts to solve problems with business or government. To a point, I agree, as do many top privacy advocates. But many of these concerns do stem from the incompetence and/or unwillingness of the Bush administration to do anything for the average consumer.
However, there are two major reasons why you should file a complaint when wronged. First, it goes into reports like the one I am covering here today, and becomes a tool used by the privacy community to convince Congress and the new White House to strengthen privacy law. Second, President Obama has named Jon Leibowitz, an FTC commissioner since 2004, and the lone Democrat on the commission, to serve as FTC Chairman. And yes, that means something, because it has become obvious we cannot depend on the Republican side of the aisle to do anything for the average consumer.
That said, let’s now turn to the FTC’s 2008 Top Consumer Complaints Report.
ID theft was ranked number one for the ninth straight year, receiving 313,982 complaints, representing 26 percent of the total of 1,223,370. Here are the hard facts folks. This is an increase of 21.5 % in identity theft over 2007, with a whopping 50.3% more total complaints registered with the FTC in 2008 over 2007. And here’s another revelation. Complaints against credit bureaus and other data purveyors rose from not even being counted separately in 2007 and 2006 to number six in 2008 with 3 percent of the total. I’d like to think The Dunning Letter, in its coverage of the Experian Credit Bureau’s treatment of consumers, had something to do with this.
The credit bureau entry into the race actually bumped sweepstakes and lotteries into the number seven position, which is significant when you consider the scams in that category. Another “newbie” is banks which are in control of much of our personal financial data, and don’t seem to always realize its value on the Internet black market. Junk mailers, including catalog sales, came in third, and Internet services came in number four.
My next grassroots movement is to convince American consumers they should demand to know everything that is in their credit reports, including any credit scoring techniques, including results, used by business to extend credit. And it should be free every quarter, not once a year, based on the fact that identity theft can happen at any time. Further, individuals should be able to correct their personal information within days, not months or years, as some of my readers have charged in their experiences.