Feature Article
Mark Pribish
ID Theft is the Number 1 Consumer Complaint for the 14th consecutive Year
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

In February of each year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) releases an annual report on identity theft and fraud complaints called the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.

The 2014 report, reflecting 2013 statistics, reported Identity Theft was the top consumer complaint for the 14th consecutive year.

Specifically, government documents / benefits fraud (34%) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by credit card fraud (17%), phone or utilities fraud (14%), and bank fraud (8%).

Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were employment-related fraud (6%) and loan fraud (4%).

One of the more interesting findings is that the mature market (50 years and older) now represents 37 percent of all ID Theft victims, thus making it the single largest demographic of victims.

2013 ID Theft Complaints

The FTC report also included the following highlights:

  • While 37 percent of individuals at 50 years of age and older are victims of ID Theft, 47 percent of individuals 50 years of age and older are victims of fraud
  • 30 percent of the identity theft complaints are related to tax or wage-related fraud
  • The top 5 states for ID theft in order were Florida, Georgia, California, Michigan, and Nevada
  • Children 19 and younger represent 6 percent of all victims
  • Victims spend numerous hours straightening out their lives following an incident of identity theft
  • Online identity theft is popular, with a target demographic of individuals between 20-29 years of age, who are posting information online
  • Data breaches at organizations are happening more frequently
  • Phishing emails are at an all-time high
  • For military consumers, Identity Theft was the number one complaint category

In addition, Javelin Strategy & Research released its 2014 Identity Fraud Report in February and reported that 13.1 million Americans were victims of ID theft in 2013.

While ID Theft has been in the news over the last decade, the total number of 13.1 million ID Theft victims last year was the second-highest total since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began counting victims in 2003.

Finally, the FTC advises anyone who spots a scam, is the victim of identity theft or other fraud-related issues, to file a complaint online with the agency's Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).

For more information about identity theft, you can go to the following links:

Identity Theft Resource Center

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

FTC ID Theft Consumer Page


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.

Scam Central

On-Demand Media Support Scam

For those of us whose patience has grown thin from being forced to watch almost as much advertising as actual programming on network TV, on-demand video services have proved to be a huge success. Not only can you watch your favorite movies or entire seasons of your favorite TV shows from anywhere, you don't have to deal with those pesky and irritating commercials! That is of course unless you use a service such as Hulu, which does actually show a limited number of smaller commercial clips during segments of TV shows. But even those minor annoyances are a blessing compared to watching almost three minutes worth of commercials for every seven minutes or so during a prime time broadcasts on network television.

On-demand services have become so popular that many are choosing to cut the cord on satellite or cable services altogether and go with regular "over-the-air" broadcast television and on-demand services only. This has proven to be a real money saver compared to expensive premium cable programming.

Indeed, we have come to embrace and rely so heavily upon on-demand that it becomes almost unbearable to watch regular TV. And if for some reason we cannot access our on-demand service, well, let's just say our demeanor becomes less than charming! If we were to find out that there was an issue with our account, we would do anything to resolve it quickly. And that is just what scammers are banking on.

How It Works:

Imagine that you receive an email that appears to come from Netflix informing you that your account has been suspended due to "unusual activity." The email provides a phone number to contact support. If you choose to call the number, the person you will talk to is not a Netflix representative, and you are about to be scammed.

According to an article found on Yahoo!, you have just contacted a scammer. You will be asked to download a piece of software onto your system. The problem is, this is malicious software that will allow the scammer to scan your computer for any piece of information that may prove lucrative for them (e.g. bank accounts, Social Security information, etc.). After installing the software and getting whatever information they can, the scammer tells you that you have been hacked and your call is then somehow handed over to a Microsoft support representative who offers to resolve your issues. Only they are not a Microsoft representative either. This is just another scammer involved with the same scam. In the end, they will try and stick you with a bill for almost $400 for their support and they will want you to pay with your credit card, right then. Don't do it!

Your Defense:

In this particular scam, the on-demand service provider represented was Netflix. But beware! Any on-demand service provider could be easily substituted. The first question anyone should ask is simple: do you have an account with the company or service in question? If you do not, delete the email. If you do, remember to pay attention to the source of these questionable emails. Was the address of the sender from a true Netflix domain (i.e. Netflix.com)? Are any links within the email pointing to a suspicious site with the word "Netflix" in it (i.e. netflix.scamsite.com), or to an actual Netflix domain (i.e. Netflix.com)?

To be as safe as possible, you should never click on links in emails from suspicious sources. Instead, you should go directly to your service provider's website and login as you normally would. If there truly is a problem with your account, you should be notified as soon as you log in. Be sure to check your account status, and look for any messages from the provider. If you have further questions, contact your provider using their support numbers listed on their website. Never trust that a number in an email is the actual number to the provider in question. This is a common tactic used by scammers.

Don't let a bad email disrupt your entertainment. Be alert and stay calm. There is plenty to watch.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.