The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) releases a summary of consumer fraud data each year. In 2022, there was more bad news to report. Based on the number of consumer fraud cases reported in 2021, more Americans may need a consumer fraud lawyer this year than ever before.
The FTC receives a variety of reports from consumers regarding problems in the US marketplace. The reports are stored in a secure online database called the Consumer Sentinel Network. The FTC used the 2021 information to create a helpful summary called the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2021.
However, the Data Book only includes consumer fraud situations that were reported to the FTC. Since many fraudulent matters go unreported, it’s safe to assume the actual number of cases is much higher.
2 Major Reasons Why You May Need a Consumer Fraud Lawyer This Year
The scary truth is your chances of being a fraud victim in the US are going up every year. The total number of consumer fraud reports increased from 4.87 million in 2020 to 5.74 million in 2021. Here is a breakdown of the types of consumer fraud reported.
- Identity Theft is Growing
Computer hackers, cybercriminals, and online scammers are becoming savvier each passing year. In 2021, the top categories of consumer fraud reports were:
- Identity Theft which comprised 25% of all reports (1.43 million),
- Imposter Scams accounted for roughly 17% of all reports (984,756),
- Credit bureaus, information furnishers (the people who provide credit information to the credit bureaus), and credit report users caused 10.3% of all reports (approximately 591,000), and
- Online shopping (7%), banks and lenders (3.4%), debt collection (2.6%), prize and lottery scams (2.58%), automobile financing and purchase (2.4%), and several other categories (that accounted for less than 2% each) rounded out the remaining categories.
- Dollar Losses Were Significant
Most fraud victims reported losing money, but the amounts varied greatly. Thankfully the largest group of defrauded consumers (450,000 people) only reported losses between $1 to $1,000 while an additional 75,000 people lost up to $2,000. Unfortunately, the third-largest group of fraud victims—65,000 consumers—lost more than $10,000 each.
Monetary losses also varied by circumstance. For example, although credit card fraud was the most often-reported situation with more than 88,000 reports, only $181 million was lost. The highest dollar amount lost by category was $756 million lost in bank transfer and electronic payment cases while the next-highest reported loss was $750 million lost due to cryptocurrency fraud.
The 8 Most Common Situations When You May Need a Consumer Fraud Lawyer
As technology evolves and more of our financial transactions occur online, the opportunities for cybercriminals and simple human error increase. A consumer protection attorney may be able to help resolve these common situations when you’ve reached a dead end:
- Identity theft – occurs when another person steals your personal information and uses it for their financial gain.
- Unauthorized Electronic Fund Transfers – can include lost or stolen ATM and debit cards, mobile banking, and peer-to-peer payment app transactions you didn’t authorize.
- Credit Reporting Errors – your credit report may show outstanding debts that were paid in full, someone else’s debt, incorrect amounts due, and accounts you never opened, among other mistakes.
- Credit Card Billing Errors and Fraudulent Charges – when charges appear on your credit card statement that you don’t recognize, you need to know what to do.
- Auto Financing Fraud – often includes bait and switch sales tactics and signature pad fraud when predatory auto dealers scam buyers into paying more than expected.
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Violations – may include unlawful collection tactics such as harassing calls; adding fees, charges, and interest to a debt without authority; payment miscalculations; misleading boilerplate language; and more.
- Family Fraud – is more common than most people think because those closest to you have an easier opportunity to access your accounts or incur debt in your name.
- ATM and Debit Card Scams – can include shoulder surfing (where someone steals your PIN by looking over your shoulder at the ATM), card skimmers that steal information when you unknowingly insert your card, and other clever ways to use your card to access your accounts.
**IMPORTANT** Before you retain an attorney, you can take steps to address the problem on your own. For example, if you are dealing with identity theft, you should follow these suggestions to minimize the damaging impact on your finances.
When is the Best Time to Contact a Consumer Fraud Lawyer?
Depending on your circumstances, you may eventually need a consumer protection attorney to resolve your financial dilemma. At Schlanger Law Group, we offer free case consultations so we can understand your situation and determine how we can help you.
The best time to schedule your complimentary case consultation is:
- After you contact your bank, creditor, credit reporting agency, credit card company, or any other company that is involved in the problem,
- After you dispute the fraudulent charges, unauthorized transfers, or credit report errors (we recommend calling the company immediately),
- After you send a follow-up notification in writing if your first contact was verbal,
- After you freeze your credit report or place a fraud alert on your account, if appropriate,
- After you have gathered all documents and proof related to the problem,
- After you have requested a copy of your credit reports and thoroughly reviewed them to determine the full extent of the problem,
- After you request corrected credit reports from the credit reporting agencies,
- After you request the cancellation of any unauthorized accounts (first by phone and then with a written request),
- When the credit reporting agency, financial institution, or creditor violates the law by:
- failing to investigate,
- failing to notify you as required,
- denying your dispute without justification,
- failing to provide documentation when requested,
- failing to correct mistakes or clear up identity theft problems, or
- failing to respond to your dispute.
Several federal consumer protection laws may apply to your situation in addition to individual state laws depending on where you and the violator(s) are located. Also, you may be one of several consumers facing the same problems involving a big corporation that cares more about its bottom line than its customers. Finding an experienced class action attorney could help bring justice to many consumers.
Trust a Consumer Fraud Lawyer at Schlanger Law Group to Help Enforce Your Rights
When your legal rights have been violated, you need an experienced and dedicated consumer fraud lawyer fighting for you. Consumer protection laws are complicated, and not all attorneys understand the intricacies of these specific laws and how to protect your rights.