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No. 1 consumer complaint: Identity theft

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The government received more than a million consumer complaints last year, with identity theft enraging the most people.

The Federal Trade Commission counted 250,854 complaints about identity theft in 2010, according to a report issued Tuesday. That was 19% of the 1.3 million total complaints the agency received, putting it at the top of the consumer complaint list for the 11th year in a row.

The most common form of identity theft was through fraudulent government documents. Credit card fraud garnered the second highest number of identity theft complaints, followed by phone and utilities fraud. Overall, Florida residents reported the highest per capita rate of identity thefts.

After identity theft, debt collection racked up the second highest number of complaints, making up 11% of overall complaints. Internet services and prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries each accounted for 5% of complaints, followed by shop-at-home and catalog sales, which made up 4%.

Fraud-related complaints accounted for 54% of total complaints, with consumers reporting that they were scammed into paying more than $1.7 billion -- or a median of $594 per person -- last year.

About 45% of consumers reporting fraud said that transactions were initiated by e-mail; 11% said they were lured through a website.

For the first time, imposter scams -- where scammers pose as friends, family, government agencies or companies to trick consumers into sending them money -- were also among the top 10 complaints.

Internet auctions, foreign money offers and counterfeit check scams, telephone and mobile services and credit cards rounded off the list of top ten things consumers complained about last year. To top of page

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