Anytime a consumer is the victim of an intentional deception that is engineered for the purpose of injuring that person financially, it is described as a consumer fraud. There are a variety of different types of consumer fraud that people can find themselves the victim of:
- Credit card fraud
- Hurricane fraud
- Movie ticket fraud
- Bank fraud
- Phone company fraud
- Internets services / Internet usage fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Dry cleaner fraud
- Prize/sweepstakes fraud
- Shop-at-home/catalog sale fraud
Regardless of the specific type of consumer fraud that someone is victimized by, it is important to note that they are not alone.
Consumer Fraud – National Focus
Consumer fraud is handled on a national level by the Federal Trade Commission through their Consumer Sentinel program. The program was established in 1997 in order to serve as a database through which consumers located throughout the United States would be able to file consumer fraud complaints.
As of December 2005, the Consumer Sentinel program contained more than three million consumer fraud and identity theft complaints. The service is accessible to more than 14,000 law enforcement agencies in addition to every state attorney general’s office. On an international level, the Consumer Sentinel database is made available to nineteen nations around the globe so as better track perpetrators of consumer fraud.
Between January and December of 2005, the Consumer Sentinel program registered more than 685,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints that cost consumers an estimated $680 million. Of the 685,000 complaints, 431,118 (63%) were related to consumer fraud while the remaining 253,882 (37%) complaints were related to identity theft.
People living in certain areas of the country are more susceptible to consumer fraud according to data retrieved by the Consumer Sentinel program. The highest per capita rate of reported consumer fraud belongs to:
- Washington D.C.
- Tampa / St. Petersburg / Clearwater, FL
- Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue, WA
Consumer Fraud – Local Focus
There were 24,796 consumer fraud complaints registered through Consumer Sentinel by Floridians in the 2005 calendar year. The victims of consumer fraud in Florida reported total monetary losses exceeding $33.4 million, meaning that the average consumer fraud victim was taken for more than $2,000 (this is significantly higher than the 2005 national average of $350).
The areas of Florida reporting the most instances of consumer fraud in 2005 included:
- Miami (1,693 complaints)
- Tampa (1,128 complaints)
- Orlando (1,088 complaints)
- Jacksonville (1,060 complaints)
- St. Petersburg (588 complaints)
Consumer Fraud and the Internet
Internet-related consumer fraud accounted for the largest percentage of total complaints registered through the Consumer Sentinel program in 2005. Of the 431,118 consumer fraud complaints, more than 46% were associated with Internet services, accounting for more than $335 million in net monetary losses.
As Internet usage continues to become more and more prevalent, consumer fraud related to Internet services is expected to rise; complaints with “wire transfer” payment methods associated with Internet auctions have more than tripled since 2002. Many consumers have complained of being over-charged by online ticket sale portals. Others have been victimized by email scams designed to extract money from unsuspecting Internet users.
Victims of Consumer Fraud – Restitution
Being taken advantage of through a scam or fraud of some kind can be a difficult pill to swallow. It is incredibly difficult for a single victim of consumer fraud to voice their complaint; as such, personal injury law firms such as the law offices of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz make it their business to assist the victims of consumer fraud so that their complaints can be heard. Contact the consumer fraud lawyers at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz to get information about a consumer fraud victim’s right to compensation.