Millennials Complain the Most About Identity Theft


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The more isolated you feel, the more susceptible you are to online fraud especially in New York, according to a new report.

"Scammers have New Yorkers pegged based on how they're feeling and their online behaviors," said Beth Finkel, state director for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in New York.

"The Caught in the Scammer's Net" AARP study found that it is a combination of life events, such as feeling isolated or lonely, losing a job and signing up for free trial offers online that put a person at the greatest risk of being scammed.

The survey further found that the top risk factors making New Yorkers prone to online scams include clicking on pop-ups and visiting websites that requires them to read a privacy policy.

"What a person is going through or feeling can be the difference between them becoming the next victim or not," said Finkel.

A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study found that in 2014 identity theft complaints caused the average victim to lose more than $2,200 and that the highest reported age group for identity theft is 20 years old to 29 years old with 20% of complaints.

"Americans of all ages are vulnerable to identity theft and it remains the most common consumer complaint to the commission," said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

About 30% of identity theft incidents were tax- or wage-related, which continues to be the largest category within identity theft complaints, according to the agency's Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2013.

The IRS paid $70 million dollars in known fraudulent refunds to identity thieves, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

"Drug dealers are turning to IRS identity theft because it's less risky and more lucrative," said Florida Republican John Mica, chairman of the House oversight and government reform subcommittee on government operations.

Consumers lost more than $1.6 billion dollars to various types of fraud in the areas of banks and lenders, debt collection and telephone and mobile services.

Currently the top scam involves receiving a call on your cell phone that disconnects after one ring. The curious phone user then dials the number that the call appears to come from and are charged exorbitant fees when they do.

"One of the more frightening foreclosure scams is the rent-to-buy scheme," said Rip Mason, CEO of Legal Shield. "Scam artists convince a homeowner to give up the title to their home in a deal that lets them stay in the home as a renter with the option to buy it back at a later date. Desperate home owners often accept terms that make it virtually impossible for them to buy back their homes."

On the debt collector side, ACA International's research department analyzed complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from July 2013 to mid-February 2014 and found that the most reported consumer concern was being contacted about a debt they did not believe they owed followed by communication tactics.

"A closer look at the consumer tactics data indicates call frequency because collectors are calling more frequently instead of leaving a message for fear of getting sued," said Mark Schiffman, vice president with ACA International. "Today most people have caller ID, which reveals how many times a collector attempted to reach them. Five to 10 years ago, the use of caller ID wasn't as widespread so consumers likely had no idea how many times a collector or creditor was calling."

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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