PRC Hotline Statistics: Top Ten Inquiry Topics -- 1992-1998

Posted: March 1999  

Year One
10/92 - 09/93
Year Two
10/93 - 09/94
Year Three
10/94 - 09/95
Year Four
10/95 - 09/96
1. Credit24%Junk Mail31%General31%Identity Theft25%
2. General23%General19%Identity Theft18%General22%
3. Junk Mail17%Credit15%Merchants14%Caller ID14%
4. Social Sec #15%Social Sec #12%Junk Mail12%Credit11%
5. Telemarketing3%Medical Records8%Credit8%Junk Mail8%
6. Medical Records2%Telemarketing8%Social Sec #4%Telemarketing4%
7. Workplace2%Merchants5%Telemarketing3%Social Sec #4%
8. Wiretapping2%Workplace3%Cyberspace3%Medical Records3%
9. Merchants1%Misc.2%Medical Records2%Cyberspace3%
10. Misc.1%Wallet Stolen *2%Misc.2%Misc.2%


Year Five
10/96 - 09/97
Year Six
10/97 - 09/98
General21%Identity Theft30%
Identity Theft20%General10%
Credit10%Junk Mail8%
Junk Mail8%Credit8%
Medical Records7%Social Sec #5%
Social Sec #6%Medical Records5%
Government Records6%Telemarketing4%
Telemarketing4%Gov. Recs.4%
Workplace4%Debt Coll4%

In Year One, each inquiry was coded with just one topic. Thereafter, we coded each inquiry with two different codes if the caller indeed had two distinctly separate concerns. Therefore, the percentages for years two through four exceed 100%.

These rankings should be used with caution. It is best to view them as an indicator of the broad topics that are of concern to consumers rather than as precise numeric indicators that can be generalized to the entire population.

First, media stories have influenced to some degree the topics that are highest in rank. For example, in Year Four, a major media campaign was launched by the local telephone companies and consumer groups in California on Caller ID. This consumer education campaign was mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission when Caller ID was first implemented in California. That explains why Caller ID is ranked in the Top Ten during 1995/1996, but not in other years.

Second, the PRC has launched its own media campaigns on certain topics. For example, in Year Three, the PRC was funded to raise awareness of the types of information merchants can and cannot require of consumers when good and services are paid for by check and by credit cards. This resulted in many calls to the PRC hotline on that subject (categorized as "merchants.")

"Privacy in cyberspace" is another hotline topic that did not register in Years One and Two. But with the growth of the Internet and the explosion of the World Wide Web, "cyberspace" is now ranked in the Top Ten for the previous three years.

Nonetheless, the rankings are instructive in noting trends. For example, the topic of "identity theft" did not exist in Year One, 1992/1993. In Year Two, we noted that we were receiving calls on what we termed "wallet stolen." In the following year, we changed that category to "identity theft" because we observed that many consumers were victims of credit card fraud without their wallet having been stolen. In Years Three through Six, the volume of calls to the hotline on "identity theft" skyrocketed.