Identity Theft Cost Americans $1.52 Billion In 2011, FTC Says

The Rising Threat Of Identity Theft

WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Identity theft and other scams cost Americans $1.52 billion last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said on Tuesday.

In a nationwide sampling of consumer complaints, law enforcement and other agencies received 1.8 million complaints last year, up from 1.4 million in 2010 and double the level in 2006, the FTC said in a statement. Identity theft remained the top category.

The increase reflects the growing number of agencies that contributed to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a database that is the basis of the report, rather than an upturn in fraud, David Torok, head of the FTC's planning and communications unit, told Reuters.

Identity theft "has been our No. 1 complaint generator for the past five years, and that seems to be consistent" at 15 percent of complaints last year, he said.

Fraudsters increasingly are using the Internet and email to carry out scams or identity theft rather than by telephone or mail, Torok said.

"The old-fashioned 'the check is in the mail' is going down," he said.

The FTC said almost a million complaints last year were fraud related, with $1.52 billion paid out. The median amount was $537, the statement said.

Not all victims of fraud report it to government agencies.

Colorado is the state with the highest per capita rate of reported fraud and other types of complaints, followed by Delaware and Maryland.

Government documents or benefits fraud was the most common form of reported identity theft, at just over one in four cases, the FTC said.

Florida is the state with the highest per capita rate of identity theft complaints, followed by Georgia and California.

(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Cynthia Osterman)

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