How's that for timing? We release our feature on CyberCrime and a couple of days later the US Federal Trade Commission releases its Top 10 List of Consumer Fraud Complaints. Methinks there is a conspiracy afoot...
The FTC press release can be found here. The numbers fall out something like this (David Letterman drum roll...Paul , hold off on the keyboards just for a moment, please...)
No. 1: Identity Theft at 37 percent, and 686,683 complaints.
(Bloggers Note: Hmm, apparently that $100 investment in the Equifax Credit Watch service was a wise one after all.)
No. 2: Internet Auctions - 12 percent
No. 3 Foreign Money Offers - 8 percent
No. 4 Shop-at-Home/Catalog Sales - 8 percent
No. 5 Prizes/Sweepstakes and Lotteries - 7 percent
No. 6 Internet Services and Computer Complaints - 5 percent
No. 7 Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home plans - 2 percent
No. 8 Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection - 2 percent
No. 9 Telephone Services - 2 percent
No. 10 Other - 17 percent
Interestingly, Internet-related complaints accounted for 46 percent of all fraud complaints, although Internet auction-related fraud was down YOY, and child ID theft cases nearly doubled.
So, the moral of the story? Don't use the Internet, don't buy money orders, don't shop from home, don't play the lottery, and don't have any children (or least hide them somewhere so their identities can't be discovered) -- and you should be just fine.
I Know I Put My Identity Down Around Here Somewhere
In all seriousness, both the personal and economic devastation that can arise from Internet-related fraud is substantial. Last year, these consumer fraud complaints resulted in reported losses of some $680 million, a 5% increase YOY but a substantial increase from 2003 and 2004. 49 consumers reported losing more than $1 million or more!
Of the 430,000 identity theft crimes reported, about half involved using the Internet. The Net, then: Protect your information, online and off. To learn more, go to the FTC Web site and take the Consumer Identity Theft Quiz (I took the "ID Theft FaceOff," playing Jim, and regained my identity in no time...Check it out)
To learn more about how you can minimize your risk and, if you suspect you've been the victim of identity theft, learn what first steps to take, visit the FTC's ID Theft site.