People out to grab other people’s money -- whether collecting a debt or posing as a government agent -- topped the nation’s list of consumer woes in 2016.
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So-called “impostor” scams -- in which con artists pretend to be a government agent or some other trusted person -- surpassed identity theft to become the second-most common consumer complaint, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which released the list ahead of National Consumer Protection Week March 5-11.
A common impostor scam is the “fake IRS agent,” in which con artists contact taxpayers to claim they’ve been audited and owe money. Victims are told to pay immediately or face a court case, imprisonment or deportation.
Another scam is the “fake computer technician,” in which scammers falsely claim the victim needs to purchase a computer security patch or software license.
Complaints about debt collection fell slightly from 2015 to 2016, but they still held the top spot, making up 28 percent of all consumer complaints, according to the FTC.
Of the people who complained about identity theft in 2016, about 29 percent said their information was used to commit fraud by filing fake tax returns to steal tax refunds; 32 percent said it was used in credit card fraud.
The list comes from the Consumer Sentinel Network, which tallies complaints to the FTC, other federal and state law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations and non-governmental organizations. Last year, the network logged more than 3.1 million consumer complaints.
Here are the top 10 complaint categories for 2016:
• Debt collection -- 859,090 complaints
• Impostor scams -- 406,578 complaints
• Identity theft -- 399,225 complaints
• Telephone and mobile services -- 292,155 complaints
• Banks and lenders -- 143,987 complaints
• Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries -- 141,643 complaints
• Shop-at-home and catalog sales -- 109,831 complaints
• Auto-related complaints -- 94,673 complaints
• Credit bureaus, information furnishers and report users -- 49,679 complaints
• Television and electronic media -- 49,546 complaints
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