Imposter scams rise to third slot on FTC's national ranking of consumer complaint categories

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – It is National Consumer Protection Week and Local 10 News consumer advocate Christina Vazquez is working to keep South Florida safe from scammers.

For the first time, so-called imposter scams entered the top three of the Federal Trade Commission's national ranking of the most complained about consumer categories.

Imposter scams are when con artists impersonate others to include government officials.

In a news release, the FTC explains, "The increase in imposter scams was led by a sharp jump in complaints about IRS and other government imposter scams."

Identity theft took the No. 1 slot for the 15th year in a row. Coming in second was debt collection.

[READ: Full FTC report]

"While identity theft remains a huge issue, consumers should also keep a close eye out for imposter scams," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Whether it's pretending to be the IRS during tax season, or making false promises of a lottery win, scammers are increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to deceive consumers, but the FTC will continue working to shut these scammers down."

In January, a Call Christina Investigation worked to show viewers how to distinguish a debt collection imposter scam from a real debt collection company:

[READ: Signs 'debt collector' is scamming you]

In one "Call Christina" investigation, a Local 10 viewer explained how she was able to spot an IRS imposter.

[READ: Local 10 News viewer avoids falling victim to IRS tax scam]

The FTC complaint categories making up the top 10 are:

Identity Theft    332,646 13 percent
Debt Collection280,99811 percent
Imposter Scams 276,66211 percent
Telephone and Mobile Services 171,8097 percent
Banks and Lenders       128,1075 percent
Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries  103,579 4 percent
Auto-Related Complaints   88,3343 percent
Shop-At-Home and Catalog Sales71,3773 percent
Television and Electronic Media  48,6402 percent
Internet Services   46,0392 percent

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released its own ranking of the top 10 consumer complaints in 2014. The top consumer issue here continues to be people complaining about others violating the state's do not call list.

  • Do Not Call – 18,067
  • Fuel/Petroleum-2,193
  • Cable-1,921
  • Telemarketing-1.813
  • Motor Vehicle Sales-1.697
  • Credit/Banking-1,659
  • Communications-1,588
  • Motor Vehicle Repair-1,488
  • Landlord/Tenant-1,328
  • Travel/Vacation Plans-1.271
  • "One of our priorities is to assist consumers in need across Florida," said the commissioner of agriculture, Adam H. Putnam. "Anyone can call our 1-800-HELP-FLA consumer hotline to file a complaint, to find information about businesses and professionals, and to learn how to protect themselves from fraud and scams."

    There was a 4 percent decrease in do not call complaints. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services credits the reduction to the "agency's increased enforcement efforts over the past two years, which have resulted in the collection of more than $430,000 in administrative fines. In addition, more than $5.3 million was recovered on behalf of Florida consumers in 2014, almost twice as much as was recovered last year."

    The department's consumer assistance center responded to about 200,000 calls, 5,000 emails and 9,500 online chats.

    There were 44,000 filed complaints in 2014.

    Analysts staff the call center to respond to questions about programs and regulations as well as provide information on a variety of topics and/or direct callers to the appropriate government agency.

    The department's consumer protection information hotline is 1-800-HELP-FLA (in English) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (in Spanish).


    Follow Christina Vazquez on Twitter @CallChristinaTV

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