By Frederick H. Lowe
Consumers complained in 2016 they were duped into paying $744 million for fraudulent transactions, down from $774 million in 2015, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Sentinel Network Data Book, which recorded complaints from January through December 2016.
Consumers paid an average of $1,024.00 per fraudulent transaction in 2016 compared with $1,154.00 in 2015.
The amount reported paid last year compared to the year before represents a three-year decline. In 2014, the average payment was $1,979.00 and the total reported paid for fraudulent transactions was more than $1.7 billion.
The average number of consumers who paid for fraudulent transactions in 2014 was 866,040 compared to 671,022 in 2015 and 662,209 in 2016. The FTC did not provide a reason as to why the number continues to decline.
The figures cover only consumers who were duped into paying for fraudulent transactions. Overall, the FTC recorded 3,050, 374 million complaints concerning about different kinds of fraud in 2016 compared with 3,140,803 in 2015 and 2,633,697 in 2014. These figures include those who paid and those who did not pay.
During a nationwide telephone-conference call on Tuesday organized by New America Media, Monica Vaca, acting director of the FTC’s Division of Consumer Response Operations, said the top three forms of fraud are debt collection, followed by imposter scams and identity theft.
Vaca told reporters that imposter scams have now surpassed identity theft. Debt collection scams represented 28 percent of all complaints compared to imposter scams at 13 percent and identity theft also 13 percent. There were 406,578 imposter complaints compared to 399,225 identity theft complaints.
An imposter complaint involves, for example, someone who claims he is calling from the IRS and demands payment for overdue taxes. He wants the money sent by wire transfer, which is part of the scam, Vaca said.