Debt collectors replaces identity theft in complaints

Becky Yerak
Chicago Tribune

When it comes to consumer complaints, there’s a new top villain.

For 15 straight years, identity theft efforts generated the most consumer complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission.

But 2015 saw a new No. 1 beef: debt collection attempts.

Still, the commission said the dethroning of identity theft largely has to do with technology making it easier to complain — through the use of a particular smartphone app — than it does with more questionable behavior by debt collectors.

The commission, explaining the rise in debt-collection concerns, cited “a surge in complaints” from a “data contributor who collects complaints via a mobile app.”

Among the data providers listed in the commission’s 104-page annual complaints report was PrivacyStar, which has an app that, according to its website, “makes it easy to quickly determine if a telemarketer, debt collector or scammer is trying to call you as well as provides you with the ability to take action if you are being harassed or if you believe your rights have been violated.”

The app’s features include the ability to file complaints.

Overall, the number of complaints lodged with the commission rose to almost 3.1 million in 2015, up from 2.6 million the previous year. The commission attributed the rise to growing awareness of the agency as well as technology making it easier to complain.

Identity theft complaints were the second most reported, rising more than 47 percent.

The number of debt collection and identity theft complaints received were 897,655 and 490,220, respectively.