Florida sweeps the nation, but not for an enviable title. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put the Sunshine State at the top of its list for identity theft, fraud and related complaints.
The agency recently released its annual Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, which compiled complaints made by consumers to the FTC, state and federal law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations, and non-governmental organizations from January–December 2014. In addition to national statistics, the report also breaks down data by state and metropolitan area.
No matter how you slice it, Florida was the top source of complaints per capita both for identity theft, and fraud and other related complaints out of the 2,582,851 complaints entered into the Consumer Sentinel Network last year. Florida also held the top spot in 2013.
From 50 U.S. metropolitan areas, Florida has 14 identified fraud hotspots, based on the number of complaints per 100,000 people. They include:
- Homosassa Springs (ranked #2)
- Jacksonville (ranked #11)
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (ranked #14)
- Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (ranked #15)
- North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (ranked #17)
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (ranked #18)
- Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach (ranked #19)
- Punta Gorda (ranked #22)
- Gainesville (ranked #24)
- Sebastian-Vero Beach (ranked #26)
- Port St. Lucie (ranked #28)
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (ranked #30)
- Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent (ranked #37)
- Ocala (ranked #49)
The report also broke down the 30 worst categories of fraud reported nationwide. Identity theft was number one, followed by debt collection and imposter scams. Auto related fraud also made the top 10 on the list in 2014, coming in seventh.For those who investigate, detect and litigate fraudulent insurance claims, it’s not a big revelation that the lion’s share of fraudulent complaints transpire in Florida. A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times provides insight about factors that make the state so attractive for this type of activity:
- More temporary or transient residents having fewer strong connections to their communities.
- Resources stretched thin. Federal attention is focused on more critical issues, while state resources to investigate and prosecute fraud are limited to the most egregious cases.
- Fewer ways to scrutinize personal incomes due to no state income tax.
- A high concentration of seniors who receive Social Security, Medicare, and other retirement payments.
A reputation as a “second chance” state where many settle here to get back on track, but others still lapse into “old ways.” Al Scudieri, who spent 30 years as a special agent of the FBI, points out in the article, “Florida’s not only the third most populated, its population is different. I think we have a more affluent, elderly population. With a heavier concentration of those demographics in this state, they are the most susceptible.”
For an in-depth look at the statistics in Florida and nationwide, click on the link to view the FTC’s 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.