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Consumers' top 10 complaints

Identity theft once again is No. 1 on the FTC's list. Banks and lenders broke into the top 10 at No. 4.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 28, 2012 8:10PM

This post comes from Christopher Maag at partner site on MSN MoneyIdentity theft continues to be a major concern for American consumers, accounting for more complaints in 2011 than any other type of fraud or scam, according to a report released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission.


It was the 12th straight year that identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints. The number of ID theft-related complaints grew by 11% to nearly 280,000, the FTC reported.


"It's logical," Adam Levin, the founder of and Identity Theft 911, said of the FTC's finding. "With unemployment high, with the level of hacker sophistication rising, with cutbacks to government enforcement, it only makes sense that identity theft would continue to be a major problem." (Post continues below.)

Debt collection companies also remained unpopular, being the subject of 180,928 complaints in 2011 and coming in second in the number of consumer complaints, just as they did in 2010. The number of complaints regarding prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries jumped 56% to just over 100,000, making it the third most common type of complaint.

Another big change: Banks and lenders, which didn't even appear in the top 10 list of consumer complaints in 2010, came in at No. 5 last year. The FTC received 89,341 complaints about lenders and banks, or 5% of the 1.8 million complaints lodged with the FTC in 2011.


The commission's full report (.pdf file) shows that the increase in identity theft complaints was caused by a large uptick in fraud related to government documents and benefits. Consumers' stolen information was used for wage or tax fraud in nearly a quarter of all cases, compared with 12.7% of all cases reported in 2009.


Complaints regarding phone and mobile services also spiked. The number of complaints grew by 87% to about 70,000 in 2011. The findings reflect consumers' vulnerability to scams involving their phones, Levin says.


"You can protect yourself," Levin says. "Make sure your phone is password-protected. Read all your statements. It's all about awareness."


According to the FTC, the top 10 consumer complaints in 2011 were:

  1. Identity theft
  2. Debt collection complaints
  3. Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries
  4. Shop-at-home and catalog sales
  5. Banks and lenders
  6. Internet services
  7. Auto-related complaints
  8. Impostor scams
  9. Telephone and mobile services
  10. Advance-fee loans and credit protection/repair

More on and MSN Money:

Feb 28, 2012 11:11PM
Having been through ID theft, I feel that the credit card companies should be held responsible for allowing this to continue.  They do not follow through with making sure that the person applying is in fact that person, BUT they sure as hell can harass you to pay the bill by checking your credit records through credit bureaus to get any and all phone numbers listed in your name.  The credit card companies do not care who opens the account they only care that they can get someone to pay it.  I wish I knew an attorney who would file a class actions suit against Bank of America, Capital One, and Chase.  They are the worst offenders of ID theft.  I would love to see them all go under financially for their irresponsibility to the consumer and the economy.
Feb 28, 2012 10:50PM
And your elected representatives ALLOW businesses to collect your SSN.  The phone company has it, the gas company has it, the electric company has it, your hospital and medical insurance has it, motor vehicles has it, schools have it. 
In EUROPE individuals are protected by their elected officials and companies canNOT keep the equivalent of our SSN.
Congress is gridlocked.  Voters keep putting the same corrupt politicians in office, multi millionaires who represent their own interests.  Wake up and remove incumbents from office

Mar 14, 2012 9:26PM

Here's a big complaint....  All that cheap labor can't speak English.  When my father had to call tech support, after wasting an hour on the phone, he'd call me (this was when I was in college, some 2,000 miles away), exhasberated, having computer problems, and explaining he got someone from Bombaii.  The 2 of them couldn't even communicate, or understand the words comming out of each other's mouth....  Oh, and the worst part for you bozos, guess who gets to foot that bill for the 1-800 call, when your own phone personell can't speak English....


Hello you cheap bastards that make these HR decisions.  If the phone support can't understand the customer's own language, it means they can't communicate.  If they can't communicate, then a phone person can't do their job very effectively, or provide the support the paying customer was calling for.  Language no comprehende == tech support rep, customer service rep, or whatever other phone person can't COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY with your customer.  I don't care how much you save on cheap labor; language barriers don't make for very productive phone conversations....

Mar 14, 2012 8:35PM

One of my biggest complaints are the "people search" engines. They show me living places I have never lived, using "aliases" I have never used, and being related to people I have NEVER heard of. Then this information ends up on my credit reports, which I then have to take the time every year to dispute just to have the same garbage show up again next year. One of them right now shows me as 67 years old (I'm 49) and shows one of my "aliases" as my ex-husband's name! (he's the one that's 67.) They show no responsiblity in verifying the information they are putting out there, and then if you dispute it they either want you to pay to take it off their site (yearly, not a one time charge) and they want you to provide them with your driver's license number to prove you are who you say you are. Yeah, right.


The real kicker has been getting phone calls from debt collectors looking for people that I have never heard of because they show up as "known relatives" on these stupid people search engines. How in the world can it be legal for them to call me (or you) for someone else's debt?

Feb 29, 2012 2:06AM

If you have had an issue with a company opening a credit card in your name without your knowledge there is one simple thing that you can do to prevent this from happening. Call the credit reporting agencies and ask that they put a credit freeze on you credit reports and then if someone other than you is applying for the card the bank must call you and specifically verify that you are wanting to open a line of credit with that company. If the bank cannot get you on the phone that bank will deny the open line of credit.

If you have been the victim of Identity theft this is a good way to prevent further losses.

I hope this helps for those that are reading. There are several things that have to happen before a bank can open an account in your name.

To be honest with everyone it is not just the banks fault for this but also the merchants that have signs up that say apply here and you fill out a paper application that has all of that personal info that someone can use to steal your identity. The blame cant be ust placed upon the bank we also have to blame the merchants for people having id theft issues as well as the world wide web.

I am by no means standing up for the banks in any regard but if we are going to place blame it needs to be placed across the board.

Thanks for reading and have a great day

Feb 29, 2012 1:08AM
Any bank or financial institution that gives credit without your signature can be held liable its there responsibility to make sure it is you signing up for credit cards or any type of credit  its the law sue them for trillions and see how they like it. Any one say class action suit. Time to bring the big banks down.
Mar 14, 2012 5:14PM
Identity theft is rampant.  However, Obama is not the answer.  The government is not the answer.  If businesses would stop forcing people to use credit/debit cards, go back to checks and cash, businesses were not conscientious about scan strips on their terminals, stop forcing people to be a number(!), and stop putting everything on the damn internet and their phones, it would not be such a problem.  People need to be smarter about shredding their information and protecting their own information.  DO NOT DEPEND ON THE GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT YOU, THAT IS HOW YOU GET SCREWED.
Mar 14, 2012 7:59PM
Caller I/D is the greatest feature ever put on a phone.  I never answer anything I don't recognize and they almost never leave a message, and, if they do, they NEVER get the courtesy of a call back. These scumbags need to realize your phone is for YOUR convenience, and not THEIRS.
Mar 14, 2012 7:43PM

My parents live in a house that belonged to her father. She was in a car accident and suffered brain damage that has destroyed her powers of speech. Because some of her original assets were still under her name alone, my father got a "power of attorney" to deal with everything. 


Last year he applied for a home equity loan to make home repairs. He has been a customer of his bank for over 40 years and the bank has an original notary-sealed POA on file, but the loan application was turned down. Someone from the bank kept calling the house and leaving messages for my mother because "someone" was trying to mortgage her property. My father even brought my mother to the bank so she could make her mark on the necessary documents so he could get the loan.  They still refused the loan.


It's completely ridiculous.  My father has done business with that bank has done business for longer than my lifetime but they refuse to treat him according to his status as one of their "preferred" customers.  Of course, it would be an ENOURMOUS headache for my father to close all of his accounts at that bank so he is still arguing his case, trying to go through channels to get what he needs.

Mar 14, 2012 7:12PM
The simple solution is to stop doing business with anyone outside the United States, PERIOD!
Mar 14, 2012 9:41PM
Mar 14, 2012 5:13PM

"Collection Agencies" should all be shut down. They are conniving, sneaky SOB's that try and trick you.  They buy so called debt for pennies on the dollar, but try to collect the entire amount.  I had a run in with one a few years back trying to collect a $400 Fingerhut bill that wasn't mine (I was told it was from 1992).  When I called to tell them they had the wrong person, I was told I needed to submit an Identity theft report to them.  I advised the "person" (and I use that term rather loosely) that my identity wasn't stolen, they just had the wrong individual, the collector got irate and demanded a police report for my stolen identity.  I could not reason with them and said don't contact me again.  I haven't heard another word, but it took my valuable time with a phone call and writing a letter that I shouldn't have had to expend.

Mar 14, 2012 4:39PM

If find guilty, charge these crooks with heavy fine, possible jail time, blacklist and make sure they never work again.

FTC must do something to protect Americans from its predators.

Mar 14, 2012 8:51PM
Your government will never get involved with Identity theft. They profit from it, indirectly through taxes of illegally bought items. Also, between the Social Security Administration AND the entire banking industry, they know which Michael lives in Tennessee, which lives in Missouri and which one lives in Denver, Co. (I used Denver, because that is where the crap was sent when mine was taken.) I got calls forever about why I needed to proceed with filling out a form because it would go on my credit report. I said, why do I need to instigate an investigation, you were the ones who gave them money, why do I need to cover your @sses? It's all a shell game, and we are the markers, BAAAAAAA!
Mar 14, 2012 6:31PM
I got robo called from Cardservices too for years, I finally answered their calls and found out it was a scam.  I didn't lose any money.  Now, I have my home phone ring to a fax machine and all those pesky scam artists think they have the wrong number, that has stopped the majority of the calls.  I just look at who is calling and don't answer if I don't recognize the number as well, letting the fax machine bleep its' soulless communication tones at the caller.  I think of it as my own personal revenge against the robo calls, scam artists and 'give me some of your money' callers.
Mar 14, 2012 8:16PM

My wife has a simple solution for those annoying telemarketing people that won't take no for an answer. If they keep calling back, she picks up the phone and blasts them with one of those super loud boat horns you can buy at Walmart. They never call back after that!

Mar 14, 2012 5:59PM
Notice that the FTC NEVER lets the FTC be put on the list of complaints!
Mar 14, 2012 9:34PM
My wife has a simple solution for those annoying telemarketing people that won't take no for an answer. If they keep calling back, she picks up the phone and blasts them with one of those super loud boat horns you can buy at Walmart. They never call back after that!

Maiben had a perfect solution for these scoundrils.  He was like "hello, you have reached the (whatever police department).  We regret to inform that the person you're trying to call is no longer with us.  We're performing a homicide investigation.  May I inquire on how you know this individual?"


He then proceded to turn the telemarketer into a suspect in an investigation of his own death, got the telemarketer to reveal his geographic location, while playing a cop, and finally quized the telemarketer on whether he's a flaming homosexual /rofl  The recording of this phone conv is probably still on utube....

Mar 14, 2012 7:28PM
What really pisses me off are the endless robo calls, money to loan, the government wants to help, reduced electric rates, it never seems to end
Mar 14, 2012 6:24PM

Catch 22, it's all the consumers fault. This happens because aparently fraud is not considered a crime unless the victim is a bank. So we have to be alert 24/7 in the hope we never get hit but we will. It's a lossing fight for decent citizens.


Try to report a scam letter and see if the authorities care...

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