NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Scam artists pilfered over $18 million from Tennesseans in 2018, making the Volunteer State the nation’s fifth-leading state per capita when it comes to complaints about fraud and other scams.

That's according to a new report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Reports of identity theft also grew in a year’s time, moving Tennessee to 21st in the country in 2018.

“Scam artists may promise once-in-a-lifetime opportunities but, in fact, they’re ripping off hard-working Tennesseans and their families," said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. "If consumers believe they have been victimized by a scammer, they should report the incident to their local law enforcement agencies. Additionally, they can file a complaint through the Division of Consumer Affairs.”

According to the report, other Tennessee-related details from the report include:

  • Tennessee’s total fraud losses were $18.4 million with the median loss $345 in 2018; last year, Tennessee’s fraud losses were $13.7 million with the median fraud loss of $444.
  • Tennessee had 53,014 complaints of fraud and other reports compared to 43,579 last year;

The FTC found Tennessee’s top three complaint areas (debt collection, imposter scams and identity theft) remained unchanged since the 2017 report.

 With complaints about debt collectors as Tennesseans’ top complaint area, the Division of Consumer Affairs and the state Collections Board reminds Tennesseans to be wary of unscrupulous and illegal practices of debt collection agencies.

Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse consumers or any third parties they contact. 

For example, debt collectors may not:

  • Use threats of violence or harm.
  • Publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies).
  • Use obscene or profane language.
  • Repeatedly use phone communication to annoy you.
  • Contact you at inconvenient or unusual time periods (Between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. is considered acceptable).
  • Contact you at work if the collector knows, or has reason to know, the employer prohibits such communication.
  • Contact you after you provided a notice in writing that you wish the communication to cease.
  • Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
    • Falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
    • Falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
    • Falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
    • Misrepresent the amount you owe.

To check the status of a collection agency’s license, visit verify.tn.gov or file a complaint related to a licensee here.