Protect your identity: FTC releases top consumer fraud complaints

Did you get ripped off last year? You're not alone, especially if you were a victim of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission recently released its list of Top Consumer Fraud Complaints for 2007. And it says that for the seventh year in a row, identity theft is by far the top consumer complaint.

The agency received more than 800,000 complaints from consumers last year, and more than 250,000 of them were related to identity theft. The most common crime committed in conjunction with the identity theft was credit card fraud (23% of identity theft complaints), followed by utilities fraud (18% of identity theft complaints).

Also included on the list of complaints were shop-at-home sales, internet services, foreign money offers, lottery scams, computer equipment/software, and internet auctions. It's amazing the number of consumers who fall for scams that seem obvious to others. Just remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you're contemplating a transaction that has you a little uneasy, please research the company or person you're considering doing business with. That research can go a long way toward reducing your chances of becoming one of these 800,000 victims.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.