Identity theft once again ranks as the top consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, according to today’s release of the FTC’s 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. The FTC’s annual data compiles consumer complaints from across the country and for the past 15 years it has found identify theft as the top complaint. This consistency in consumer complaints over this long time period is telling – and troubling. The problem is clearly not only attributable to headline-grabbing data breaches in recent years.
While FTC’s data shows that identity theft is a nationwide problem, there are a number of states which have remained especially problematic. Six states have been named among the top 10 states with identify theft complaints per capita during the 10 years that data has been broken down. The states that have been historically the most effected may need special consideration regarding remediation strategies and education/awareness programs.
Identity theft has also become varied in the types of fraud occurring. While many think of identity theft as stolen credit cards, bank account numbers or tax refunds, ITRC’s research found, and the FTC’s data confirm, that identity theft takes many forms besides financial identity theft, including the use of stolen identities to commit criminal, medical, and government identity theft. These other types of identity theft often have a greater impact on victims than the theft of financial data, our research has found Identity Theft: The Aftermath 2013. They take longer to resolve, cause a greater out of pocket expense, and generally leave victims feeling more violated and emotionally scarred.
That variety of types of theft occurring argues that we must consider different strategies to combat each type of fraud and not rely upon a one-size-fits -all approach. All of our constituents, customers, and citizens need tools that are specifically designed to assist their individual needs.
ITRC will be hosting a more in-depth review of the Consumer Sentinel Report on Wednesday March 18, 2015 in conjunction with the release of the Identity Theft Resource Center’s research whitepaper – Identity Theft: #1 FTC Consumer Complaint 15 Consecutive Years. The event will feature as Keynote speaker, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, who will provide an inside perspective on the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Report. We will also feature panel of experts who will discuss the paper’s key findings. For more information and to register for the event visit: http://goo.gl/lZ8Tta
We hope that by bringing policy makers, regulatory officials, industry specialists and advocacy groups into this discussion we will come away with new ideas and strategies, as well as collaborative opportunities, to help victims and prevent new identity thefts.
Breaking Down This Year’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data
Out of more than 2.5 million total complaints filed with the FTC, 332,000 were related to identity theft, or 13 percent of all complaints in 2014. The numbers also show a sharp uptick in impostor scams, particularly those related to tax identity fraud.
There has been interesting shifts in where the most identity crime is occurring, though the top state is no surprise. Florida is once again the worst state in the nation for per capita identity theft fraud, racking up a total of more than 37,000 identity theft complaints. Florida represents over 11% of all reported identity theft complaints last year, significantly outpacing any other state in per capita complaints, at a rate of 186 incidents per 100,000 people. Beyond the top spot however there are some interesting changes.
Behind Florida, significant increases in identity theft crime occurred in several states. Jumping up the list significantly, Washington State comes in second reporting identity theft complaints at a rate of over 100%, from just over 4,700 complaints in 2013, to nearly 11,000 in 2014. Oregon has moved all the way up from 33rd to 3rd with a drastic increase in complaints, from under 2,400 in 2013 to nearly 5,000 last year. Missouri jumped from 25th to number four this year with a 77 percent increase over 2013 figures. Georgia notably received approximately 2,000 fewer complaints in 2014.
For the 10th consecutive year states like California, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia all remained in the top 10 for highest rate of identity theft per capita, though all ranked lower than the previous year. Michigan also remained in the top 10, slipping from 4th to 6th, at a rate of just more than 104 incidents per 100,000 residents. It should be noted that California received the highest total number of complaints for any state with nearly 39,000 complaints.
Rounding out the top 10 in 2014, at a rate of nearly 96 incidents per 100,000 residents, Maryland and Texas tied at the number 10 spot after ranking 6th and 8th last year. Texas still registered more than 25,000 identity theft incidents in 2014. New York and Illinois dropped out of the top 10 from 9th to 17th and 10th to 12th, respectively.
The significant growth in identity crime in the Pacific Northwest over other areas in the United States is an interesting takeaway from this year’s report. It will be interesting to see in the coming months if any reason for this considerable uptick in regional identity crime can be found.
The Consumer Sentinel Network report is compiled annually using complaints received by the FTC. This includes not only consumer complaints, but those received by law enforcement agencies and national consumer protection agencies as well. This year’s data book can be found here.
Number of Appearances in the FTC’s Top 10 of States with Highest Per Capita Identity Theft Complaints