May 6, 2003, 12:00 AM

Online auction fraud shows steady growth since 1999, FTC says

The number of complaints regarding online auction fraud compiled by the Federal Trade Commission has more than tripled over the past few years, reaching 51,002 last year.

The number of complaints regarding online auction fraud compiled by the Federal Trade Commission has more than tripled over the past few years, reaching 51,002 last year, up from 13,898 in 1999, the agency reports. The annual rate of increase has also grown, with last year’s total 109% over 2001.

The number of complaints filed first showed a sharp increase in 2001, when they rose 69% to 24,289, up from 14,374 in 2000, says Betsy Broder, assistant director of the FTC’s Division of Planning and Information.

The FTC says the increase in the number of complaints over the past two years is related both to an increase in the number of online auctions and to additional sources of complaint records that are being coordinated with FTC records. In addition to its own Consumer Sentinel database that records complaints filed with the FTC directly by online auction users, the agency now also compiles complaints filed separately with the Better Business Bureau and gathered through the FBI’s Internet fraud complaint unit.

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