By Dr. Martie GillenThe term consumer fraud is used widely to cover sales that are both legal and illegal. This includes fraud for which sellers could be prosecuted in civil or criminal courts and practices that are not necessarily illegal, such as charging exorbitant prices. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) deceptive acts are generally interpreted as those that are not reasonably avoidable by consumers, manifest a tendency to mislead, and cause a substantial number of consumers to suffer in a material way. The FTC tracks all types of consumer fraud.Likely fueled by increased use of the Internet for making financial transactions, fraud complaints have sharply increased over the last decade. In fact, according to the FTC’s 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book over 1.5 million fraud related complaints were filed in 2014. While only 55% of consumers who reported a complaint also reported the amount paid the total cost to those consumers was over $1.7 billion. The median amount was $498.In 2012, Dr. Gillen presented a 90-minute webinar on Financial Frauds & Scams. View the recording of this webinar below.Military consumers reported over 87,000 (U.S. Army 42,315, U.S. Navy 18,268, U.S. Air Force 16,691, U.S. Marines $8,568, and U.S. Coast Guard 1,558) fraud complaints in 2014. The most common status among military consumers who reported a fraud complaint was retiree and/or veteran (66%) followed by dependent spouse of an active duty services member (13%).Among military consumers, the most common reported fraud complaint was identity theft (27%) followed by imposter scams (26%), debt collection (8%), banks and lenders (5%), prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries (3%), shop-at-home and catalog sales (2%), education (2%), telephone and mobile services (2%), auto related complaints (2%), credit bureaus, information furnishers and report users (1%), foreign money offers and counterfeit check scams (1%), internet services ( 1%), credit cards (1%), health care (1%), grants (1%), computer equipment and software (1%), mortgage foreclosure relief and debt management (1%), business and job opportunities (1%), television and electronic media (1%), and advance payments for credit services (<1%).The most frequent way a military fraud victim’s information was misused was government documents or benefits fraud (45%) followed by credit card fraud (17%), phone or utilities fraud (13%), bank fraud (10%), and loan fraud (4%).The FTC provides a great deal of information on how military families can protect themselves from from fraud.This post was written by Dr. Martie Gillen. Follow her on Twitter: @MoneyMattersMG.