Starting today, consumers, reporters, students, researchers, law enforcers and others will be able to tap into a new website for a wealth of statistics about fraud, fraud on the Internet, and identity theft, and information on how to spot and avoid fraud and deception online and off. The site, www.consumer.gov/sentinel, contains aggregated complaint information culled from a database of more than 300,000 consumer complaints lodged with the Federal Trade Commission and shared with more than 250 law enforcement partners in the U.S. and abroad. The underlying database, Consumer Sentinel, is a multi-agency project whose leading partners include the National Association of Attorneys General; National Consumers League; Better Business Bureaus; and the United States Postal Inspection Service. International partners include Canada's Phonebusters and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). More than 80 public and private organizations contribute consumer complaints to the database.
"There's strength in numbers," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "This site will let consumers in on fascinating data about fraud and deception, including the latest fraud trends, specific scams, dollars spent, and information about how to recognize and avoid fraud and deception. We hope consumers will find the site informative and helpful."
Consumer Sentinel is a secure, password protected complaint database designed to allow law enforcers to share data about fraud. It is accessible to more than 40 federal law enforcement organizations, more than 200 state and local fraud fighting agencies - including every state Attorney General in the country - 12 Canadian law enforcement organizations, and the ACCC. Law enforcers also have access to Sentinel's Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse, the nation's repository for identity theft complaints. In addition to consumer complaints, Sentinel offers its law enforcement members a variety of tools to facilitate investigations and prosecutions, including: a catalog of companies currently under investigation; information to help agencies coordinate effective joint action; an index of fraudulent telemarketing sales pitches; and data analysis to determine trends in fraud.
"Providing public access to statistics collected from the Sentinel database supports Better Business Bureau efforts to empower consumers with information to identify fraudulent offers. We applaud the FTC for setting up the Web site and offering consumers helpful data on prevalent scams and steps to take if they are victimized," said Ken Hunter, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Consumers who visit the new site will be able to view data that shows such things as:
- The scams that garner the most frequent consumer complaints;
- The scams that cost consumers most;
- The location of companies complained about, by state and by province;
- The number of identity theft complaints, by state; and
- The types of identity theft most frequently reported.
For example, consumers will see that for the year 2000, internet services and computers generated the second greatest number of consumer complaints, but is sixth on the list of what scams cost consumers. Or, consumers can see that only 12 percent of identity theft victims say they have a relationship with the perpetrator, but 62 percent of identity theft victims know something about the perpetrator.
In addition to the statistics about consumer fraud and identity theft, consumers can use the new Web site to find out whether their local law enforcers are members of Consumer Sentinel, file a complaint about consumer fraud or identity theft, and learn what organizations contribute consumer data to the database.
Free consumer education materials are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use our online complaint form.
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection