On Friday, March 3, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its annual summary of consumer complaints—a compendium of complaints lodged over the course of 2016. These complaints are collected through the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN), which is a database of millions of consumer complaints available to law enforcement agencies.
Of the over three million complaints received, CSN reported that Debt Collection complaints took the top spot, accounting for 28% of the complaints filed last year. Imposter Scams surpassed Identity Theft as the second-most complained about conduct, leaving Identity Theft, Telephone and Mobile Services, and Banks and Lenders to round-out the top five.
The FTC attributed the increase in Imposter Scams complaints to the rise in complaints about government imposters—that is, scammers posing as government officials to extract money from unsuspecting consumers. Worse, Imposter Scams were the top complaint filed by members of our armed forces.
Nearly 150,000 complaints were lodged over Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries, making up 5% of the total complaints received in 2016. Other categories receiving tens of thousands of complaints included Shop-At-Home and Catalog Sales, Auto-Related Complaints, Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users, and Television and Electronic Media.
CSN also categorizes the data it collects by state. Florida, Georgia and Michigan consumers reported fraud more than any other state, and Florida, Michigan and Delaware were the states with the highest rates per capita of Identity Theft complaints.
Though consumer complaints dipped slightly in 2016—the first downturn in complaints in ten years—the number of consumer complaints filed still shows that consumers remain vigilant in policing fraud and scams in the marketplace.