The Federal Trade Commission recently released the list of the most common consumer complaints in 2010. Identity theft topped the list for the eleventh year in a row. The FTC received 1,339,265 in 2010, and 250,854, or 19%, involved identity theft. In second place, there were 144,159 debt collection complaints.
For the first time, “imposter scams,” in which imposters pose as friends, family, respected companies, or government agencies in order to persuade consumers to send money, made the top ten. The FTC has issued a new consumer alert to help consumers avoid imposter scams.
FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell commented, “Most people don’t know how their identity was stolen. If you lose your wallet on Monday and Tuesday someone starts using your cards, you have a pretty good educated guess. Otherwise you don’t. And how would you know if someone stole your identity on the Internet?”
More than half of complaints to the FTC involved some other type of fraud. 45% of those scams were initiated via email, including phishing emails. 11% of the scams originated from websites, and 19% were initiated over the phone.
Protect yourself from identity theft and other varieties of fraud by locking your mailbox to prevent stolen mail, storing sensitive paperwork in a locked file cabinet, and shredding any documents that include a name or account number before discarding them.
Protect your PC by installing antivirus and spyware removal software, and keeping your PC’s critical security patches updated.
To ensure peace of mind, subscribe to an identity theft protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance and lost wallet protection. If your credit or debit cards are ever lost, stolen or misused without your authorization, you can call McAfee Identity Protection and they’ll help you cancel them and order new ones. If their product fails, you’ll be reimbursed for any stolen funds not covered by your bank or credit card company. (See McAfee’s guarantee for details.)
For additional tips, visit CounterIdentityTheft.com.