Greeley Tops Consumer Fraud Complaint List

Bad guys beware. If you try to cheat somebody from Weld County, you’re likely to get ratted out.

Greeley ranks first in the nation for per capita complaints of consumer fraud and fourth for identity theft according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 2006 annual report [PDF] released yesterday. The home of the University of Northern Colorado and that unmistakable scent of feedlots, manure, and animal rendering tops the charts with 466.6 fraud complaints per capita. However, Greeley which reported 1,023 possible incidents of fraud doesn’t claim the highest number of total complaints. That distinction rests with the 1,471 chalked up by #4 ranked Provo-Orem, Utah in the per capita standings.

Greeley’s northern Colorado cousins didn’t fare so well either. In 23rd place, Boulder had 307.3 consumer fraud complaints per 100,000 residents followed closely by 50th ranked Fort Collins with 248.8 complaints.

Statewide, 7,657 Colorado consumers report being subjected to a wide variety of scams from shop-at-home sales gone awry to the ubiquitous Nigerian get-rich-quick emails. However, settlements from complaints apparently can bring bigger money than some of the schemes themselves. One Colorado resident laid claim to a $28 million payment based on a consumer fraud complaint, according to the report.

There’s cash money and then there’s rhetorical payola.

Employment-related identity theft has proven to be a cash cow for law-and-order politicians in recent months beginning with the 2006 special legislative session and ending, at least for the moment, with the pre-Christmas ICE raids at the Swift & Co meatpacking plant in Greeley. But for the 4,395 Colorado consumers who lodged such complaints last year, it comes in fourth behind credit card, bank, and other types of fraud perpetrated by identity theft. Government documents and benefits fraud, which is the ongoing subject of heated political debate by anti-immigrant groups, accounts for just six percent of consumer ID theft complaints or a far-trailing sixth among the FTC’s eight reporting categories.

For its trouble, Colorado ranks fourth in fraud and sixth in identity theft complaints among the 50 states.

The FTC’s data was derived from dozens of local, state, and national law enforcement and consumer protection offices for 379 metropolitan statistical areas with populations of 100,000 or more residents. Colorado’s sole local data point was the Steamboat Springs Police Department. Attorney General John Suther’s office which is charged with consumer protection responsibilities was not listed in the report as a source.

Other Colorado cities of note:

Per Capita Rank | Metro Area | Total Consumer Fraud Complaints | Per Capita Complaints
#74 Colorado Springs = 227 / 1,312
#82 Grand Junction = 223 / 284
#135 Denver = 197.9 / 4,611 (ranked #13 in 2005)
#284 Pueblo = 145.8 / 219

Per Capita Rank | Metro Area | Total Identity Theft Complaints | Per Capita Complaints
#75 Boulder = 338 / 121.2
#80 Denver = 2,771 / 118.9 (ranked #11 in 2005)
#94 Pueblo = 170 / 113.2
#113 Grand Junction = 133 / 104.5
#118 Colorado Springs = 591 / 102.6
#119 Fort Collins = 275 / 102.3

Nationwide, fraud accounts for more than $1.1 billion in consumer losses. The FTC report did not include specific loss amounts at the state or local level.

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Wendy Norris

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