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Identity theft is No. 1 consumer complaint

WASHINGTON - The seemingly intractable problem of identity theft once again led the list of top consumer complaints in 2013, with U.S. consumers reporting that they lost $1.6 billion to various types of fraud, the Federal Trade Commission said in a report released Thursday.

Of the 2 million consumer complaints that the commission received last year, 290,056, or 14 percent, were related to identity theft, the FTC said. Florida had the highest per capita rate of identity theft, followed by Georgia and California.

"This (identify theft) has topped the list since at least 2006," said David Torok, director of the FTC's Division of Planning and Information.

Identity thieves can make purchases on credit cards they don't own or make withdrawals from the victim's bank account, among other kinds of fraud.

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Young people between the ages of 20 and 29 reported being victimized more often than older Americans. This group made up 20 percent of the complaints.

Ten percent of consumer complaints to the FTC, or 204,644, were related to debt collection such as a collector trying to collect a debt

that wasn't owed, harassing a debtor or making false statements about the debt.

Another 7 percent of complaints were related to banks and lenders, such as payday loan problems or unexpected overdraft charges. Imposter scams, such as people claiming to be from the government and demanding payment of a debt that doesn't exist, was at 6 percent.

Complaints about telephone and mobile services were also at 6 percent each, including unexpected charges on mobile or phone bills.

Rounding out the top 10 consumer complaints were concerns about prizes and lotteries (4 percent), auto-related complaints (4 percent), shop-at-home and catalog sales (3 percent), television and electronic media (3 percent) and advance payment for credit services (2 percent).

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