Colorado's No. 1 in fraud complaints: Greeley, Boulder, Fort Collins & CO Springs in top 15

Statistics compiled by the Federal Trade Commission show that Colorado had the highest per-capita rate of consumer fraud complaints in the nation last year. According to the FTC's Consumer Sentinel Network report for 2010, Greeley, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs all ranked among the top 15 metro areas for fraud, with Greeley starring in the number two spot -- close behind Dunn, North Carolina.

Better luck next year, Greeley.

Ranking high on the list of places that identity thieves and credit-card scammers like to ply their trade is a dubious distinction, sure, but a point of pride, too. We don't care to take second place to anyone, not even when it comes to being taken.

The Consumer Sentinel Network received more than 1.3 million fraud complaints last year, with complaints about identity theft and debt collectors leading the pack. Florida is the leading state for ID theft, but Colorado had more outraged consumers per capita than anywhere else, with 417.8 complaints per 100,000 citizens, followed by Maryland and Nevada. To read the report, go here.

This account in the Denver Business Journal mangles some of the figures involved but does offer some interesting spin on the numbers by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. Far from suggesting that the state is doing a poor job cracking down on the fraudsters, Suthers says the FTC report "highlights the strides we have made in informing consumers about types of fraud and how to report scams to us."

Uh-huh. Actually, Colorado has a long history of being the kind of place where snake-oil salesmen thrive and rubes get up in the morning at their own risk. The means of parting a mark and his money may have changed -- nearly half of the consumer complaints in the FTC database these days involve an initial contact over the Internet -- but it's been open season on suckers around here since the days of Soapy Smith (who sold very pricey bars of soap to plungers who thought they contained ten-dollar bills) and Lou Blonger (who ran the largest big-con operation in the country, a phony stock exchange in downtown Denver, until crusading district attorney Philip Van Cise busted the gang in the 1920s).

For more on Denver's history of fraud, see my 2008 feature "Scourge of the Underworld." And beware of Nigerian bankers offering no-risk propositions involving a few unclaimed millions.