The Council of Better Business Bureaus, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), and the Federal Trade Commission today announced a strategic alliance to help fight consumer fraud in the 21st Century. The alliance features Consumer Sentinel, an investigative cyber tool and complaint database available to more than 240 law enforcement agencies in the U. S. and Canada. Today, the partners announced the following initiatives:
- More than 100 local Better Business Bureau offices have agreed to provide consumer complaint data;
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will arrange to share appropriate consumer complaints from its Mail Fraud Complaint System; and
- All fifty state Attorneys General have now signed up as members of the system.
The Consumer Sentinel database, maintained by the FTC, now contains more than 250,000 consumer fraud complaints that have been filed with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and private organizations, including the FTC; the BBBs; the National Consumer League's National Fraud Information Center and Internet Fraud Watch projects; and Canada's Project Phone Busters, an organization that targets telemarketing fraud. Consumer Sentinel can be accessed by law enforcers in the United States and Canada through an encrypted web site to determine whether a particular fraudulent scheme is local, national or cross-border in nature, and also to help spot larger trends for law enforcement action. Consumer Sentinel provides a variety of tools to help law enforcers investigate fraud and ultimately prosecute illegal activity. In addition to the complaint database, Sentinel features include analysis of data to determine trends in fraud, an index of fraudulent telemarketing sales pitches available from the National Tape Library, a compilation of companies already sued for fraud, and a catalogue of companies currently under investigation. In addition, Sentinel offers a contact list as well as how-to information to help agencies coordinate effective joint action. The complaints cover fraud and deception relating to telemarketing, direct mail and the Internet.
More than 100 organizations will now contribute data combined for use by 36 federal law enforcement organizations, 192 state and local fraud fighting agencies - including every state Attorney General in the nation - and 12 Canadian law enforcement entities. Consumer Sentinel, which has been online for over two years, grows out of a joint NAAG-FTC database project, and has been adding partners ever since.
"Participating in Consumer Sentinel bolsters Better Business Bureau fraud prevention efforts," said Ken Hunter, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., the umbrella organization for the nation's BBBs. "For decades, BBB reliability reports have alerted consumers to patterns of complaints against businesses that engage in mail or telemarketing fraud. But the BBB powers of voluntary self-regulation and consumer education don't always succeed in convincing scam artists to stop perpetrating fraud. Now, by feeding pertinent complaints to this unique database, BBBs will play an important role in helping government and law enforcement to shut down fraudulent operations."
Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth C. Weaver stated that "the Postal Inspection Service, the nation's oldest law enforcement agency, is pleased to become a key partner in this newest law enforcement joint venture, Consumer Sentinel. For years, the Inspection Service has used our own Mail Fraud Complaint System to generate investigations and protect consumers. The combined strengths of enforcement agencies sharing complaint information and working together provides us with a knockout punch against fraud."
"Our partnership has helped all of us work faster, smarter and more effectively," said Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, whose office has contributed complaint data. "This kind of joint action is good for everyone except the bad guys."
Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, agreed. "Cooperation is the key to law enforcement in the 21st Century. Consumer Sentinel facilitates interaction among law enforcers across North America and serves a unique function on behalf of consumers. We applaud the Postal Inspection Service, the Better Business Bureaus and the many state and local law enforcers who are contributing to the success of this effort."
Participating Better Business Bureau offices are listed below. Law enforcers interested in learning more can contact Robert Kuykendall, Consumer Sentinel Program Manager at 202-326-3182.
|Akron, OH||Elkhart, IN||Oklahoma City, OK|
|Albany, GA||Evansville, IN||Omaha, NE|
|Albuquerque, NM||Farmingdale, NY||Orlando, FL|
|Alexandria, LA||Farmington, NM||Panama City, FL|
|Asheville, NC||Fayetteville, TN||Pembroke Pines, FL|
|Atlanta, GA||Florence, AL||Pensacola, FL|
|Augusta, GA||Fort Worth, TX||Phoenix, AZ|
|Austin, TX||Fort Collins, CO||Pittsburgh, PA|
|Baltimore, MD||Fort Wayne, IN||Port St. Lucie, FL|
|Baton Rouge, LA||Grand Rapids, MI||Portland, SE|
|Beaumont, TX||Greensboro, NC||Raleigh, NC|
|Bettendorf, IA||Greensboro, SC||Richmond, VA|
|Birmingham, AL||Houma, LA||Rockford, IL|
|Blountsville, TN||Houston, TX||Salt Lake City, UT|
|Boston, MA||Huntsville, AL||San Diego, CA|
|Buffalo, NY||Idaho Falls, ID||Sand Mountain, AL|
|Canton, OH||Indianapolis, IN||Santa Barbara, CA|
|Charleston, WV||Knoxville, TN||Seattle, WA|
|Charlotte, NC||Lafayette, LA||Spokane, WA|
|Chattanooga, TN||Lake Charles, LA||Springfield, MA|
|Chicago, IL||Lexington, KY||Springfield, MO|
|Cincinnati, OH||Lima, OH||St. Paul, MN|
|Clarksville, TN||Lincoln, NE||Stockton, CA|
|Clearwater, FL||Little Rock, AR||Syracuse, NY|
|Cleveland, OH||Longview, TX||Toledo, OH|
|Colorado Springs, CO||Louisville, KY||Toronto, CAN|
|Columbia, SC||Lubbock, TX||Trenton, NJ|
|Columbia, SC||Macon, GA||Tulsa, OK|
|Columbus, OH||Maine, VT||Tyler, TX|
|Columbus, GA||Memphis, TN||Vancouver, CAN|
|Connecticut, MA||Midland, TX||Waco, TX|
|Corpus Christi, TX||Milwaukee, WI||Wallingford, CT|
|Cullman, AL||Mobile, AL||Washington, DC|
|Dallas, TX||Monroe, LA||West Palm Beach, FL|
|Dayton, OH||Montgomery, AL||White Plains, NY|
|Decatur, AL||Murfreesboro, TN||Wichita, KS|
|Denver, CO||Myrtle Beach, SC||Wilmington, DE|
|Des Moines, IA||Nashville, TN||Winston Salem, NC|
|Dothan, AL||New York, NY||Worcester, MA|
|El Paso, TX||New Orleans, LA||Youngstown, OH|
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Consumer Sentinel Program Manager