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Consumer Fraud

Identity Theft, Telephone And Mail Solicitations, Internet Fraud, Income Tax FraudCombating Fraud

Deceptive practices that result in financial or other losses for consumers in the course of seemingly legitimate business transactions.

Many think that consumer fraud only affects unwitting people who are all too willing to be duped. In truth, even the most savvy customer can fall victim to FRAUD. It may be as simple and seemingly innocuous as getting stuck paying a higher rate for a magazine subscription, or it may be as devastating as having one's identity stolen.

According to the FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (FTC), consumers reported $343 million in losses from fraud in 2002. In addition to those who are unwittingly defrauded, there are a number of consumers who share at least a degree of culpability in their losses. People who try to save money on their income taxes by purchasing a new SOCIAL SECURITY number or wage statement may become victims of fraud, but chances are that they understood that their actions were illegal, which makes them guilty of fraud as well.

Consumer fraud can take place in person, by telephone or mail, or over the INTERNET. As

technology continues to improve, INTERNET FRAUD has risen faster than other types. With or without technology, however, consumers can protect themselves against fraud by following a few simple, common-sense measures such as not revealing personal information to strangers.

Following are some of the most common types of consumer fraud.

Combating Fraud

Education is key to combating consumer fraud. The FTC, FBI, NCL, Consumers Union, and Direct Marketing Association all work to educate the public and to identify fraudulent businesses. The Better Business Bureau is also a useful tool for consumers who wish to find out information about specific companies.


Bertrand, Marsha, 2000. Fraud! How to Protect Yourself from Schemes, Scams, and Swindles. New York: AMACOM.

U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 1997. Fighting Consumer Fraud: The Challenge and the Campaign. Washington, DC: U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

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