Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2017: Inside the Numbers

This year, the Sentinel Data Book refers to consumer reports rather than “complaints.” Often, people make these reports after they have experienced something problematic in the marketplace, avoided a loss, and decided to alert others.

Sentinel sorts consumer reports into 30 top categories. Appendices B1–B3 describe the categories, providing details, and three year figures. To reflect marketplace changes, new categories or subcategories are created or deleted over time. In 2017, a new subcategory for reports about online payment systems was added to the Internet Services category.

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book excludes the National Do Not Call Registry. A separate report about these complaint statistics is available at: www.ftc.gov/donotcall-databook2017. The Sentinel Data Book also excludes reports about unsolicited commercial email.

Consumers can report as much or as little detail as they wish when they file a report. For the Sentinel Data Book graphics, percentages are based on the total number of Sentinel fraud, identity theft, and other report types in 2017 in which consumers provided the information displayed on each chart.

Calculations of dollar amounts lost are based on reports in which consumers indicated they lost between $1 and $999,999. In prior years, rather than “amount lost” we labeled it as “amount paid,” which included values of $0 to $999,999.

States and Metropolitan Areas are ranked based on the number of reports per 100,000 population. State rankings are based on 2017 U.S. Census population estimates (Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017). Metropolitan Area rankings are based on 2016 U.S. Census population estimates (Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016).

This Sentinel Data Book identifies Metropolitan Areas (Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas) with a population of 100,000 or more, except as noted for Wyoming. Metropolitan areas are defined by Office of Management and Budget Bulletin No. 15-01, “Revised Delineations of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Combined Statistical Areas, and Guidance on Uses of the Delineations of These Areas” (July 15, 2015).

Numbers change over time. The Sentinel Data Book sorts consumer reports by year, based on the date of the consumer's reported transaction. Some data contributors transfer their complaints to Sentinel after the end of the calendar year, and new data providers often contribute reports from prior years. As a result, the total number of reports for 2017 will likely change during the next few months, and totals from previous years may differ from prior Consumer Sentinel Network Data Books.