Fraud complaints: Colorado is number one again, Greeley tops metro areas

The Federal Trade Commission released its 2011 list of consumer complaints, and Colorado topped the charts for a second consecutive year, with the most reported per-capita consumer fraud complaints in the nation. Greeley -- ranked No. 1 for large U.S. metro areas -- joined Colorado Springs, Boulder and Fort Collins among the thirteen top complainers in the nation.

Colorado reported a total of 28,854 fraud complaints, which breaks down to 573.7 complaints per 100,000 citizens. According to the report, debt collection, Internet services, credit cards and telephone and mobile services were among the top categories of complaints.

Mike Saccone, communications director from the Colorado Attorney General's Office, says the state's top ranking doesn't necessarily mean that Colorado consumers are more likely to be targets of fraud theft. "Do people in Colorado get victimized more than other states? I don't think you can say that," he says. "Our consumers are much better educated and more likely to follow through with complaints."

He says the Attorney General's office has, in the recent years, placed an emphasis on fraud education, which encourages consumers to file fraud reports. "We do tours across the state each year, handing out pamphlets and information.... We've expanded our fraud outreach to seniors, and all of this increases instances of reporting."

Does such outreach explain the state's top ranking? Here's another theory: Colorado defrauders may simply be extremely innovative. For instance, the Longmont Times-Call recently reported that Adrian Kline, a Brighton embalmer, is facing fraud charges for stealing gold teeth from dead bodies and pawning the teeth for money.

Page Hanson, manager of education programs from LifeLock, an identity theft and credit card fraud protection company, admits there's no way to entirely eliminate the risk of becoming a fraud statistic. "Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to prevent it," she says in reference to the vast amount of personal information that accumulates in the public sphere from the time we're born until after we're dead -- from job applications and Facebook to our own dead bodies.

But there are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk.

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"I think the first thing to think about is being aware of how much information people have out there -- all of the places it can be." Hanson says. "After you've thought about that, be more skeptical when giving out your social security number."

She also advises that consumers are cautious when using free public wi-fi. "The fact is, we're definitely a technology-driven society. If you are typing in a username or password, make sure you are using a secure Internet."

For the complete list of consumer complaints and rankings for each state, check out the Consumer Sentinel Data Book, released by the Federal Trade Commission.

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