According to the 2015 Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Data Report, Florida has the highest number of complaints in the country for fraud, and also ranked third for identity theft.
The report says Florida had 306,133 fraud complaints in 2015, more than double that of the second-highest on the list – Georgia, with 123,429 fraud complaints. The rankings were based off the number of complaints compared to how many people there were in each area.
The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area specifically ranked 32nd for fraud and 22nd for identity theft, according to the report.
According to Carlos Morales, Administrator of the Orange County Consumer Fraud Division, the Internet’s prominence in recent years has only made the problems of fraud and related crimes even worse.
“Scam artists love the Internet, because they don’t have to show a face,” he said.
The idea Morales pushed was that everyone should be as discerning as possible, and look out for signs of a scam in any transaction they take part in. Morales said consumers in Florida have to be extra-vigilant, as many state laws put the burden on the consumer to watch out for fraud.
“People don’t take the step to verify things,” he said. “Florida is just a bounty of people trying to rip each other off. Committing fraud can change peoples’ quality of life. The people taking the money do not care about how they’re affecting people after that. They’ve been practicing their lines for years. If they’d use it to do something good, they could make some legitimate money.”
Morales also said it was a race and culture issue – fraud usually happens, he said, between two people of the same race.
“Fraud is just a lie during a business transaction,” she said. “A lot of the time, it’s Hispanics committing fraud against other Hispanics, white people against other white people, and black people against other black people. When you deal with people of the same race, you feel more trusted. You go to the same church, you might be drinking buddies, you might go fishing together – there’s an element of trust. That’s how fraud happens.”