Last year imposter scams bypassed identity theft for the first time as the second largest category of consumer complaints, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network in 2016.
In a press release, the FTC said that while debt collection complaints declined slightly between 2015 and 2016, they were still the top consumer complaint category, representing 28 percent of all complaints. The FTC said the high number of complaints about debt collection was due in large part to complaints that were submitted to the FTC from a data contributor that collects complaints using a mobile app. In the case of imposter scams, the FTC said the increase is because of an uptick in the number of complaints about government imposters.
“Imposter scams come in many varieties but work the same way: A scammer pretends to be someone trustworthy, such as a government official or computer technician, to convince a consumer to send money. Imposter scams also topped the list of complaints from military consumers followed by identity theft complaints,” the FTC said in the release.
As for identity threat complaints, the FTC said they declined to 13 percent in 2016 from 16 percent in 2015, with 29 percent of consumers reporting their data was used to commit tax fraud. What’s more, the FTC said there was an increase in the number of consumers who said their data was stolen and used to engage in credit card fraud, with that increasing to more than 32 percent in 2016 compared to 16 percent in 2015.
“Our latest data book shows that imposter scams are a serious and growing problem, and you can be sure that the FTC will use all the tools at its disposal to address it,” said Thomas Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the release. “That includes law enforcement actions against scammers and consumer education to help consumers avoid losing money.”