Online incidents accounted for nearly half of all consumer fraud complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2005, the agency said in a report released this week.
Of the 686,000 fraud incidents filed with the FTC last year, 46 percent of all complaints were internet related. Of the incidents, identity theft was the top category, accounting for 37 percent of all reports.
The complaints, which were filed online or by a toll-free telephone number, have been shared via a secure database with more than 1,400 federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies, and law enforcement and consumer protection agencies in Canada and Australia.
Other than identity theft, other top complaints were about internet auctions, at 12 percent of the total, foreign money offers, with 8 percent of complaints, and shop-at-home or catalog scams, also with 8 percent.
Reports of offered internet services and computers, business opportunities and work-at-home plans, advance-fee loans and credit protection and telephone services each accounted for 2 percent of the total number of complaints.
Deborah Platt Majoras, FTC chairperson, said in a statement this week that the report aids law enforcement officials.
"With a call or a click, consumers can file complaints with law enforcers across the country and around the world," she said. "These reports provide ammunition that helps law enforcers fight fraud and identity theft."
The report also concluded that the "wire transfer" was the most reported payment method in all internet-related fraud complaints, increasing by more than triple from 2003.
The nation's capital was also a center of identity theft, ranking as one of the metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of consumer fraud. It was joined by the Tampa, Fla., area and Seattle.
The major metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of reported identity theft were Phoenix, Las Vegas and Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, Cal.