For the fifth consecutive year, identity theft is at the top of the Federal Trade Commission's list of consumer complaints.
With more than 2 million complaints lodged nationwide in 2012, including 369,132 related to identity theft, national and local agencies are encouraging the public to take every safety precaution necessary to protect themselves, especially when it comes to the Internet.
"Consumers of all ages remain the prime target for fraudsters who seek new ways to profit by deception," said Francine A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.
As part of the recent annual National Consumer Protection Week, Giani released the annual top 10 consumer complaints, highlighting the FTC's 2012 Consumer Sentinel report, which tracks Utah consumer complaints to the federal agency.
In 2012, according to the report, Utah consumers reported 9,907 complaints to the federal agency concerning debt collection, shop-at-home catalog sales, banks and lenders, telephone and mobile services, Internet services, imposter scams, auto-related complaints, foreign money offers and counterfeit check scams, prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries and credit cards.
The Utah Division of Consumer Protection continues to see deceptive practices dominating the Internet. These complaints represent 27 percent of the top 10 state complaints, according to a report from the division.
Con artists are able to use the Internet to exploit the consumer's vulnerability, according to the division. Several factors account for this vulnerability.
The pitch is made in the privacy of the home where the individual is less guarded. Consumers tend to believe what they read. The method of payment is quick and easy, and consumers have little recourse if they find themselves victims of deceptive practices.
Other complaints lodged with the state Division of Consumer Protection included coaching services, retail sales, deposit and refund issues, Internet offers, model, talent and acting offers, telemarketing, personal services, alarm systems, auto repair sales and home-improvement services and repairs.
CenturyLink, Inc., in Ogden has jumped on board to offer tips to the public when it comes to Internet safety. Some of those tips include replacing simple passwords with alpha-numeric and symbols and making sure antivirus software is automatically updated and running regular scans on all operating systems to protect from new threats that could lead to identity fraud.
The Utah Attorney General's Office also encourages parents to be aware of their children's Internet surfing to ensure they are protected from identity theft, cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate material, online predators and revealing too much personal information.