Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers recently announced Oregon’s Top 10 Complaint List for 2004 with telecommunications as number one for the fifth year in a row but alerted consumers and businesses to Oregon’s latest ranking of 15th in the nation for the world’s fastest growing crime of identity theft. The announcement was made in conjunction with the recent observance of National Consumer Protection Week and its theme, “Identity Theft: When Fact Becomes Fiction.”
“As chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Consumer Protection Committee, I have watched consumer fraud and identity theft complaints increase each year especially on the West Coast,” Myers said. In the national database maintained by the Federal Trade Commission, more than 635,000 complaints were reported in 2004 with reported losses of more than $574 million. Of the hundreds of thousands of reported fraud complaints, 39 percent concerned identity theft with 3,156 being Oregon victims.
“Identity theft is an easy crime to commit and extremely hard to prosecute. It will take a concerted effort by state and federal, civil and criminal law enforcement to lower those complaint numbers,” Myers explained. “In addition to law enforcement, consumers must do more to personally protect their financial information by educating themselves about how identity theft is committed and knowing their rights under the law.”
Identity theft victims have a number of agencies, both federal and state, that can immediately assist them with their problems. Acting quickly is the key to stopping identity thieves. Minutes, not hours or days, make the difference in the amount of financial loss that a victim will incur.
Both the Attorney General’s consumer protection office and the Federal Trade Commission have ID Theft brochures available that give step by step instructions of how to report the crime as soon as possible. Consumers may call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline and request that the flyer either be mailed or faxed or they can find the flyer and an affidavit online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. The affidavit can be filed with the FTC and with Myers’ consumer protection office in order to take advantage of certain rights under the new federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), which amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 2004.
“It is important for victims to understand that filing with my office will not result in the opening of a criminal investigation and may not result in any other action. It will simply put their complaint on record in our civil enforcement office, which could help consumers as they get into what can be a lengthy process of reclaiming their identity,” Myers said.
Oregon’s 2004 Top 10 Consumer Complaint List includes:
#1 Telecommunications 1,615
Long Distance 601 Cellular 427
Internet Service Provider 241
Local Service 115
Cable and Satellite 139
#2 Financial Institutions 912
Credit Cards 352
Real Estate financing 111
Sales Financing 95
Commercial Banking 73
Mortgage Brokers 71
Consumer Lending 25
Credit Unions 9
Car Title Loans 8
#3 Internet Auctions 783
#4 Motor Vehicle Sales 671
New Car Dealers 373
Selling used cars 200
Selling new cars 161
Used Car Dealers 235
RV, Trailer, Campers 47
#5 Collection Agencies 410
#6 Nigerian Money Schemes 365
#7 Internet Retailers 305
#8 Auto Repair 255
#9 Sweepstakes / Prize Promotions / Foreign Lotteries 222
#10 Construction Contractors 209
“Due to 2003 budget restrictions, we have cut back on our consumer education outreach programs, resulting in consumers being less able to identify, avoid and report fraud in the marketplace,” Myers said.” “A direct result is 4,000 less complaints being filed in 2004.”
In 2004, 10,934 consumers filed written complaints with the Attorney General’s consumer protection office. Of those filed in 2004, 3,667 were filed electronically: 3,026 through the Justice Web site; 534 via the federal Internet Fraud Complaint Center; and 107 through the National Fraud Information Center. More than 4,500 Oregonians reported fraud through the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database.
The complaint category of collection agencies (third party collectors) continued its climb up the Top 10 List by going from number six to number five. Internet retailers dropped from number five to number seven and auto repair dropped down a notch on the list from number seven to number eight.
Reporting of the Nigerian Money Transfer Scheme increased bringing one of the oldest continuous scams “up the ladder” from number 10 to number six. On the Top 10 List for the first time in many years are Sweepstakes/Prize Promotions/Foreign Lotteries and Construction Contractors (includes licensed and unlicensed).
Complaint categories that did not make the Top 10 Listing this year but whose numbers are in the hundreds include business to business, junk fax, magazine subscription agents, furniture stores, gasoline stations, “phishing” on the Internet for financial information and travel.
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