scams ftc identity theftAbout 1.3 million consumers complained to the Federal Trade Commission last year, saying they had problems with identity theft, Internet auctions and fake sweepstakes and lotteries.

The number of complaints leveled off in 2010 after years of sharp increases.

The top complaint, for the 11th year in a row, was identity theft. From concerns about public hot spots to fake IRS agents calling for personal W-2 information, con artists have been coming up with new ways (and some tried and true ones) to get people to hand over personal information and take their money.

Debt collectors were also high on the list, with people complaining about being harassed and false accusations.For the first time, "imposter scams" made the list, with 60,158 complaints. That's when someone calls pretending to be a friend or family member, such as the "grandparent scam."

See the list of all the scams here.

FTC officials say there are few key phrases to watch out for
  • They want you to wire money. Don't do it. If they send you a check and promise to wire the money back, the check is typically fake -- but by then the wire has gone through and the money is gone.
  • It's the government calling. The FBI, the IRS, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection contact people through the mail, officially. And no government agency runs a sweepstakes.
  • You have to act right now. If there's an immediate deadline and it sounds like an infomercial (only the top five callers will win!) it's a scam. The more time you have, the more likely you'll figure it out.
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