The Commission believes that enforcement coupled with policy work and education is the most effective formula to promote competition and protect consumers. As a result, the FTC seeks to inform businesses of every size about compliance standards, and to alert consumers about typical signs of fraud and deceptive business practices. Our outreach efforts combine the use of the media and the web as well as coordination with thousands of interested intermediaries to disseminate important information.
In 2015, the agency published 40 blog posts through its Competition Matters blog. Popular topics included the failing firm defense, direct-to-consumer auto sales, and the HSR exemption for investment-only purchases. The Bureau of Competition also published guidance for state agencies on when and how to actively supervise regulatory boards controlled by active market participants, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection published 234 blog posts for consumers and 143 blog posts for business people and attorneys in 2015. The most-read blog posts were about IRS imposters, getting calls from your own number, a settlement with AT&T and tax scams. Nearly 128,000 people subscribe to the English and Spanish consumer blogs and almost 50,000 subscribe to the business blog. In 2015, consumers and business people ordered more than 17 million print publications and viewed 48.4 million pages of information online.
In May, the FTC launched IdentityTheft.gov (robodeidentidad.gov in Spanish), a free, one-stop resource people can use to report and recover from identity theft. The site implements the President’s Executive Order by consolidating federal resources and reducing the burden on identity theft victims as they repair damage caused by identity theft. The online site — accessible from mobile devices — is integrated with the FTC’s consumer complaint system. Now, identity theft victims can use the site to create a personal recovery plan based on the type of identity theft they face and get pre-filled letters and forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses and debt collectors. During 2015, people viewed more than 1.3 million pages of IdentityTheft.gov and ordered more than 3.7 million related publications in English, Spanish and four other languages.
The Start with Security business outreach campaign includes a guide for businesses that summarizes the lessons learned from the FTC’s 50+ data security settlements, as well as business education videos. In addition, the FTC organized one-day conferences in Austin and San Francisco that brought business owners and developers together with industry experts to discuss practical tips and strategies for implementing effective data security. The Start with Security guide was published in June, and people have ordered more than 43,000 copies through the end of 2015.
In a series of three public debt collection dialogues organized by the FTC, members of the debt collection industry and regulatory agencies discussed recent enforcement actions, consumer complaints about debt collection practices, and compliance issues. More than half a million people viewed an online article about debt collection rights, and 113,000 people ordered Cobradores de Deuda, the Spanish language fotonovela (graphic novel) about debt collectors.
The FTC combines innovative fraud prevention information and focused outreach to help people in every community protect themselves from fraud. In 2015, the FTC emphasized interactions with older adults, servicemembers and veterans, and people in African-American, Native American, immigrant and Latino communities. To encourage more attention to consumer protection issues in diverse communities, the FTC began a new project to reach ethnic media outlets by hosting roundtables with them in six cities across the country. These ethnic media events highlight scams, frauds, and illegal practices affecting the relevant communities. The Bureau of Consumer Protection and its Regional Offices participated in over 170 outreach events, including webinars, trainings, presentations, exhibits, and Twitter chats. The FTC developed a new video series titled Fraud Affects Every Community, which features vignettes from consumers on various topics. The first video dealt with debt collection and featured a military veteran explaining how he coped with a fraudulent debt collector.
The FTC’s bi-lingual Pass It On campaign (Pásalo in Spanish), tailored to people age 65+, provides information about fraud and encourages readers to share the information with a friend. In 2015, Pass It On received the 2015 ClearMark award for best new document in plain language. Older adults and the people who work with them ordered more than 2.6 million Pass It On publications to read and share in 2015.
The FTC and military and consumer partners informed service members on various consumer topics through Twitter chats and 85 blog posts published on military.ncpw.gov. The FTC conducted multiple webinars with Veterans Affairs staff and military financial counselors, including a series of three webinars about tax identity theft and imposter scams that reached more than 1,100 Veterans Affairs staff and veterans.
The FTC’s fotonovela (graphic novel) series for Spanish speakers addresses scams related to government imposters, jobs, debt collection and notario fraud. Cobradores de Deuda (Debt Collection) received the 2015 ClearMark Grand Prize for best Spanish plain language communication. In 2015, people ordered more than 440,000 copies of the fotonovelas.