The tri-county area was second only to Ann Arbor, Michigan for number of identity theft complaints per capita last year, according to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission. There were 223.8 identity theft complaints filed in South Florida in 2016 per 100,000 people, according to the FTC.
The FTC releases the Consumer Sentinel Network report, a survey of consumer and fraud complaints including identity theft, every year. South Florida is always a top performer when it comes to fraud and identity theft complaints. Other metro areas in Florida also have high rates of fraud complaints per capita.
Homosassa Springs was the No. 1 metro area in the country for fraud and consumer complaints, with 1,364.7 complaints per 100,000 residents. Gainesville was the second Florida metro area to rank on the list of total consumer and fraud complaints, coming in at No. 9 with 556.7 complaints per 100,000 residents.
Jacksonville, the Space Coast, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Deltona-Daytona, and Cape Coral-Ft. Myers were the next five Florida metro areas to rank on the list of total complaints, coming in at No. 10, No. 11, No. 18, No. 23 and No. 25, respectively.
And while South Florida was second in the nation for identity fraud complaints per capita, the tri-county area came in at No. 33 for fraud and other consumer complaints across the country. Which means that while there is a higher volume of varied fraud and consumer complaints in other metro areas, South Florida is hotspot for identify theft.
That’s not surprising. In late January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, along with officials from the IRS, FBI and other agencies, announced the filing of federal charges against more than 100 defendants in 81 cases involving more than 30,000 stolen identities. Those cases encompassed intended theft of more than $60 million from individuals, businesses and government agencies through alleged fraud schemes.
In those 81 cases, the vast majority of defendants were from South Florida. Approximately 64 percent of the defendants were from Miami-Dade County and 28 percent were from Broward County. Palm Beach County residents were not included in the charges.
The Consumer Sentinel Network is an online database of consumer complaints which law enforcement uses in investigations. Businesses cannot see the information, but can respond to consumer complaints, according to the FTC. More than 3.1 million consumer complaints were collected by the CSN in 2016. Approximately 42 percent of all complaints in the U.S. were fraud-related.
Florida was the No. 1 state for fraud and consumer complaints in the nation, and No. 2 for identity theft complaints. The majority – 54 percent – of consumer complaints in Florida were debt collection complaints, followed by telephone and mobile services at 11 percent and impostor scams at 9 percent.
For identity theft complaints in Florida, 37 percent were regarding credit card fraud, 30 percent were about employment- or tax-related fraud, 14 percent were regarding bank fraud, and 11 percent were regarding phone or utilities fraud.
Click here for a SFBJ slideshow to see which Florida metros had the highest rates of identity theft and other types of consumer fraud complaints.