Tax and wage related ID theft on the rise
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its annual nationwide list of consumer complaints ahead of National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10, 2012. For the twelfth year in a row, identity theft remains the number one consumer complaint. A growing number of consumers are reporting tax and wage fraud which accounted for 24% of all identity theft complaints in 2011, increasing from just 12% two years earlier. These types of complaints come from consumers who believe their social security numbers (SSN) have been stolen and used for fraudulent purposes, including tax refunds and employment.
Government documents and benefits fraud (which includes tax and wage fraud) accounted for 27% of the 279,156 identity theft complaints reported last year, followed by, credit card fraud (14%), phone or utilities fraud (15%) and bank fraud (9%), among others.
In 2011, the ten states with the highest identity theft claims per capita are:
- New York
- New Jersey
Here are a few tips to help safeguard your identity:
Monitor your credit report. Everyone is entitled by law to a free copy of their credit report, annually. According to the FTC website, “www.annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law.”
Keep your SSN private. If requested to provide your SSN, ask the following three questions:
- Why do you need my SSN and how will you use it?
- Will you accept a different type of identification?
- How will you protect my SSN?
Report ID theft: call toll-free 877-ID-THEFT or visit: www.ftc.gov/idtheft
In 1987 the FTC began to collect fraud and identity theft complaints and now captures claims from the commission, Better Business Bureau, state agencies and other consumer protection organizations. The 1.8 million complaints reported last year were sorted into 30 categories by the FTC. Following identity theft, the other top complaint categories, include debt collection, prize, sweepstakes, and lotteries, shop at home and catalog sales, banks and lenders services, Internet services, auto related complaints.
Christine Parker, CFP®
Special to FPA