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Top 5 consumer complaints

The Federal Trade Commission releases its 2006 list of top consumer fraud complaints. Fraud losses top $1.1 billion, as ID theft heads the list for the seventh year in a row.

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNNmoney.com senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Of the more than 670,000 consumer fraud complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission in 2006, identity theft was the biggest category of reported cases, accounting for 36 percent of calls.

There are several types of ID theft, the most common and most easily fixed being credit card fraud, which not surprisingly accounted for 25 percent of all the identity theft complaints. That was followed by phone or utilities fraud (16 percent of calls), bank fraud (16 percent) and employment fraud (14 percent).

(There's no surefire way to stop ID theft because so much of your information is already out there. So rather than spend a lot of energy and money trying, you might try these simple precautions without spending a dime.)

Behind identity theft, there was a tie for (a very distant) second place between shop-at-home/catalog sales and sweepstakes and lotteries, each of which accounted for 7 percent of all calls.

Another 6 percent of calls pertained to Internet services and computer complaints, while 5 percent were about consumer fraud at Internet auctions.

The vast majority of consumers who called the FTC with complaints reported that they'd lost money. The total, according to the FTC, exceeded $1.1 billion, up from $683.5 million in 2005. The median reported loss per consumer was $500, up from $349 a year earlier.

Geographically, the greatest number of consumer identity theft complaints per capita in metropolitan areas came from Napa, Calif., Madera, Calif., and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas.

For all other categories of complaints, Greeley, Colo., Albany-Lebanon, Ore., and Napa, Calif. had the highest number of reported fraud cases per capita.

The FTC doesn't resolve individual cases of consumer fraud. But calling the agency provides information to a broad network of law enforcement agents about where and how consumer fraud is being perpetrated.

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