The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has just released its Annual Summary of Consumer Complaints, and debt collection (29%), identity theft (16%), and imposter scams (11%) top the list of the most common categories of consumer complaints.
The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book is produced every year from complaints received by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, including consumer complaints and complaints forwarded from state and federal law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations, and non-governmental organizations. While the data book consists of unverified complaints, it is a useful tool for tracking developments and issues important to consumers.
The FTC’s summary overall shows little change from last year. There were a few categories that changed places; for example debt collection complaints traded places with identity theft to claim the top spot, but the FTC also noted that the spike in debt collection complaints was due in large part to one data contributor employing a new mobile app to collect such complaints. Internet Services, which had been number 10 fell out of the top ten to be replaced by Credit Bureaus, information furnishers and report users.
Identify theft remains a huge issue as the second most reported complaint type in 2015. Identity theft complaints had previously taken the number one spot for past 15 years, but this year’s second place status does not mean that identify theft is diminishing in any way. In fact, the FTC report reveals that identify theft complaints actually increased by more than 45% from 2014.
In response to this growing issue, the FTC announced in January 2016 that the new version of IdentityTheft.gov will now allow consumers to create personalized identity theft recovery plans.
The FTC also addressed debt collection in 2015 by drastically increasing its enforcement efforts against companies engaging in illegal debt collection practices. Specifically, the FTC coordinated “Operation Collection Protection,” a federal-state-local initiative, which included over 70 partners and led to over 130 actions. The FTC directly filed 12 actions against 52 defendants obtaining nearly $94 million in judgments against companies for illegal debt collection practices.
The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network collected over 3 million complaints in 2015 which the FTC has broken down into 30 categories, about 500,000 more complaints than it collected in 2014. The database itself is only available to law enforcement, but the summary includes robust summaries of many different data points such as fraud complaints by method of consumer payment and state by state complaint analysis. Florida and Georgia remain among the top states for sources of complaints.
The complaint categories making up the top 10 are:
|Prior Year Rank||Number||Percent|
|Telephone and Mobile Services||4||275,754||9%|
|Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries||6||140,136||5%|
|Banks and Lenders||5||131,875||4%|
|Shop-At-Home and Catalog Sales||8||96,363||3%|
|Television and Electronic Media||9||47,728||2%|
|Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users||Not ranked||43,939||1%|
The full Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book can be found here.