Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Identity Theft Complaints Grow

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Identity Theft Complaints Grow

Article excerpt

THE MONEY MINDERS

Consumers have plenty to gripe about these days.

Identity theft was the fastest-growing complaint made by consumers to state and local agencies last year, according to a report released last week by the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators.

Florida was one of 21 states whose agencies participated in the study.

The most common complaints consumers filed continued to be about autos, home improvement and construction, and credit and debt.

"Considering the epidemic of data breaches that we've been experiencing in the last year, it's not surprising that more consumers are contacting state or local consumer agencies for help to resolve the problems that identity theft can cause," said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at CFA.

Scammers who steal consumers' personal information to impersonate them and claim their tax refunds is a fast-growing and troublesome problem, making it hard for victims to claim benefits that are rightfully theirs, the report said.

"The solution to the problem isn't to provide consumers with identity theft insurance, it's to require better security to prevent their personal information from being stolen and fraudulently used," Grant said.

The top complaint reported by the consumer agencies involved misrepresentations in the advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes.

Ranked second were complaints over home improvement or construction, specifically shoddy work or work that failed to start or to be completed.

Credit and debt issues were the third-most common type of complaint, and included billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt- relief services, predatory lending, and illegal or abusive debt- collection tactics, the report stated.

Tied for fourth were problems with retailers, such as false advertising, defective merchandise and problems with rebates, coupons or gift cards; and utilities, such as service or billing disputes with telephone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas services. …

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