The top ten consumer complaints of 2011

Man Controlling Trade

"Man Controlling Trade," (1937) by Michael Lantz stands outside the Federal Trade Commission's DC headquarters. Image: trxckster/Flickr/CC BY-SA

The Federal Trade Commission released its annual list of the top consumer complaints for the last calendar year. For the last dozen years the top complaint among consumers has been identity theft. And this year’s list, released Tuesday, did not offer any surprises.

Fifteen percent of all complaints

According to the FTC, there were more than 1.8 million complaints filed by U.S. consumers in 2011. Of those, about 15 percent, or 279,156, were for identity theft. The report breaks down fraud complaints by state and by nature of the complaint.

Colorado had the highest incidence of reported fraud in the nation, followed by Delaware and Maryland.

Identity theft

Most of the complaints of identity theft involved the fraudulent use of another person’s identity on government documents in order to collect some kind of government benefit. This type of identity fraud has spiked 11 percent since 2009 and was responsible for 27 percent of all identity fraud cases in 2011.

Florida has the highest number of identity theft reports in 2011. Georgia and California were the next largest states for identity fraud.

[Don’t get caught between pay checks. Consider a payday loan.]

The Consumer Sentinel database

The data accumulated for the report is posted in the Consumer Sentinel database that can be accessed by more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies across the nation and abroad. In addition to the FTC, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the DOJ’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and several state attorney general offices also contribute complaints to the Consumer Sentinel Network.

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says his newly opened agency will also be contributing all filed complaints to the database.

David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said:

“The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network is an incredibly powerful tool for law enforcers who are working to protect consumers and go after the bad guys. It’s used by agencies across the country and around the world to enhance their enforcement efforts.”

The other nine largest complaint categories

The next nine largest consumer complaints of 2011 were:

Debt collection complaints, 180,928, or 10 percent. Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries, 100,208 or 6 percent. Shop-at-home and catalog sales, 98,306 or 5 percent. Banks and lenders, 89,341 or 5 percent. Internet services, 81,805 or 5 percent. Auto related complaints, 77,435 or 4 percent. Imposter scams, 73,281 or 4 percent. Telephone and mobile services, 70,024 or 4 percent. Advance-fee loans and credit protection/repair, 47,414 or 3 percent.

Consumers lost $1.5 billion

The report concluded that 55 percent of all consumer complaints last year involved fraud. U.S. consumers were bilked of $1.5 billion by scammers in 2011. The average amount lost to scammers per victim was $537. Nearly half of all victims said the scammer initially contacted them by e-mail.

Direct your complaints to the FTC

Consumers who feel they may have been taken advantage of financially can direct complaints to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357.


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