ID theft tops list of consumer complaints

February 28, 2008 4:23:06 PM PST
A near-record number of consumer complaints were filed in Illinois last year. Attorney general Lisa Madigan says identity theft remains the top complaint among the state's residents.

Consumer advocates with the Illinois attorney general's office took 250,000 calls last year. Many residents are looking for information, but more than 32,000 were consumers with actual complaints.

"We have seen a significant increase, almost a 47 percent increase in consumer fraud complaints. In large part, I think it is a reflection of what's taking place in the overall economy," said Madigan.

The top five complaints:

  • telecommunications or telemarketing
  • construction or home repair
  • promotions and schemes
  • credit and financial services
  • and, No. 1 for the second year in a row, identity theft.
  • "It's very, very financially devastating to have your credit ruined. In addition to which, it takes a long time to restore your credit," said Madigan.

    Ask Adriel Archie. He has been fighting identity theft since 2004 when someone bought five homes in his name.

    "The investigation is still open. It's taken a long time. On account of this my credit is messed up. I can't apply," said Archie.

    Complaints about identity theft often include existing credit cards being taken over by someone else and data breaches when a company with your personal information loses it or gives it out. Even the attorney general had to deal with that problem.

    "We get security breach notices. We got one over our mortgage with LaSalle. My husband got one because he went to Notre Dame and got a contribution a few years ago and they lost their information. I've had my credit card number used. So it happens to everybody. It can happen to the attorney general, it can happen to you," said Madigan.

    Like she recommends for any victim of identity theft, the attorney general put a freeze on her own credit, so that no one can open a new account without her consent. She has set up an identity theft complaint hotline.