National Consumer Protection Week is upon us. This event, which falls between March 1 and March 7, is a coordinated campaign between multiple government agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general offices, as well as businesses that promote consumer rights like the Better Business Bureau. It aims to encourage consumers across the country to learn and take advantage of their rights as consumers, and hopefully make better-informed decisions. Simply by visiting the NCPW website, you can access hundreds of resources and read articles to get better educated on topics like health and safety or identity theft. This annual event comes at a time when consumers are dodging scams right and left and having their information breached at what feels like a clockwork basis.

National Consumer Protection Week

What can you learn from National Consumer Protection Week?

In addition to the articles and resources provided on its website, one of the most important aspects of this event is the release of the FTC’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.” Published once per year, this data book looks at consumer complaints received by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network over the course of the last calendar year and compiles them to draw conclusions about where consumers are facing the most problems. The statistics from 2014 are a good indication of where people are the most vulnerable.

Fraud and identity theft are rising. The Consumer Sentinel Network received 2.5 million complaints in 2014, and a whopping 60% were fraud-related, while 13% were identity theft-related. The other 27% were other types of complaints. Both fraud and identity theft complaints have gone up from last year — although identity theft is still down from 2012 (when it represented 17% of the total complaints for the year).

Scammers are going old-fashioned. Of those who reported the initial method of contact, more than half (54%) reported they were contacted via telephone. Email is still a top scammer choice, however, with 23% reporting initial contact through this method.

What are the most commonly-reported forms of identity theft? Unsurprisingly, government documents/benefits fraud took the top spot at 39%. The other top forms of identity theft were credit card fraud (27%), phone or utilities fraud (13%), bank fraud (8%), employment-related fraud (5%) and loan fraud (4%).

Which states are identity thieves targeting the most? Florida had the highest per-capita rate of identity theft complaints in 2014, followed by Washington and Oregon.

“Imposter Scams” are on the rise

In conjunction with its data book, the FTC also publishes its Top 10 Consumer Complaint Categories — similar to the IRS’ Dirty Dozen list. While identity theft took the top spot for the 15th year in a row, the FTC is warning consumers about the recent rise in what it calls “imposter scams.” These scams represented 11% of the complaints and took the third spot (just behind debt collection) on the list for 2015. These scams involve people posing as someone else to try and trick you out of money — such as people pretending to be the IRS during tax season, or representatives of a lottery you have supposedly won. It’s always wise to be on the lookout for scammers trying to take advantage of you in this way. You can learn more about avoiding scams by reading through the identity theft protection section in our blog.

Although events like National Consumer Protection Week remind us to be careful, you should always be thinking about your safety and make the best choices to help keep yourself and your identity safe throughout the year.