Identity theft is still a major problem in the United States, new data reveals.
The US Federal Trade Commission received 250,854 complaints about identity theft during 2010 - nearly one-fifth of the entire number of complaints received by the agency. For the eleventh year in succession, it was the subject most consumers complained about.
The Commission's identity theft statistics show that Florida had the highest per capita rate of reported ID theft, with Arizona and California following close behind.
Other major issues in the 1.34 million complaints received by the Commission last year include debt collection scams, fraudulent data collection and "imposter scams" (where fraudsters pose as legitimate companies).
Prevent Identity Theft
The Commission said the main cause of the identity theft was benefits fraud, with people stealing a person's identity to obtain federal benefits. Credit card fraud, phone and utilities fraud were also major contributors.
Identity theft is a growing problem globally, and lobby groups say there is much work to be done to prevent identity theft and ensure greater protection for consumers.
"With more and more personal information about consumers being collected by more and more companies, government agencies and others for various purposes, the fact remains that there are still problems with security breaches, where consumers' information is stolen by identity thieves," Consumer Federation of America consumer protection director Susan Grant told Dow Jones Newswires. "There are lots of root causes of identify theft that still have not been resolved."
Consumers are advised to be cautious when handing over personal details over the internet and phone, by refusing to give account details to unsolicited calls or emails. Being protective of PIN numbers and changing passwords regularly for internet shopping is also advised.