In 2017, the agency published 18 blog posts through its Competition Matters blog. Popular topics included interlocking directorates, merger remedies, partial privilege logs, and the need to submit side agreements with HSR filings. The FTC also joined with the DOJ to publish guidance on the application of the antitrust laws in the wake of hurricanes, guidelines for the licensing of intellectual property, and updated guidance on international enforcement and cooperation.
Last year, the Bureau of Consumer Protection published 212 blog posts for consumers in English, 116 blog posts for consumers in Spanish, and 132 blog posts for businesspeople and attorneys. More than 250,000 people subscribe to the English and Spanish consumer blogs, and more than 68,000 subscribe to the business blog. The most-read blog post, viewed 6.1 million times, was about the Equifax data breach. Other highly viewed posts addressed other issues related to the breach, including Equifax imposters, free credit freezes and choosing between a fraud alert or credit freeze. Two blogs about imposters – some of whom made calls with a spoofed FTC phone number and others who misused the Publishers Clearing House name – and a warning about scammers who offered access to secret bank accounts at Federal Reserve banks were also popular. In 2017, consumers and businesspeople ordered nearly 14 million print publications and viewed 60 million pages of consumer and business information online.
The FTC has long been proactive in helping to protect military consumers from scammers targeting them. Servicemembers dedicate themselves to serving the country and protecting all of us and the Commission’s education initiatives are designed to give the military community the tools to avoid scams and mitigate their effects. We continue to work with the Department of Defense to share resources with military consumers through MilitaryConsumer.gov, a tool for financial readiness. The site has short, actionable, mobile-friendly tips, plus slides and talking points, to help military personnel and spouses manage their money, buy a car, rent an apartment, avoid scams and more. Military Consumer Month in July 2017 focused on education issues affecting the military community. For example, most servicemembers transition out of the military into the civilian workforce at some point in their careers, and they may consider signing up for additional education to further their career. Military spouses often begin a job search every time the family moves, which can be as frequently as every two to three years.
As part of the Commission’s military-focused initiatives, the agency also hosted workshops about issues that can affect servicemembers, veterans, and their families. In July in San Antonio, Texas, the FTC brought together stakeholders to examine a wide array of financial issues that military consumers confront and ways to help them detect and defend themselves from scams and other financial problems. Panelists and other speakers at the day-long event – military consumer advocates, government representatives at all levels, military legal services and veterans law clinics, all service branches, and industry representatives – discussed these financial concerns and potential remedies and resources for military consumers. In September, the Commission and its partners co-hosted a conference in Los Angeles, California, to train military attorneys, financial advisors, law enforcement, prosecution agencies, and consumer protection officials to identify, prevent, and respond to consumer fraud and other issues affecting military personnel and their families.
The FTC maintains a robust educational program to alert businesses to evolving scams and to help companies comply with the law. Cybersecurity is a critically important topic for small businesses in the U.S. In 2017, the Commission distributed nearly 400,000 free cybersecurity publications in print for businesses and launched FTC.gov/smallbusiness, a site with resources to help small businesses stay ahead of the latest scams, reduce the risk of cyber threats, and respond in case of a data breach. Small business owners can find resources like Small Business Computer Security Basics, which includes tips to help protect a company’s files and devices, train employees to think twice before sharing account information, keep wireless networks protected, and know what to do if a hacker gets into a small business’s system. This year, the Commission built on its Start with Security initiative and featured the Stick with Security series on the Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Blog. The series offers businesses additional insights into the 10 principles the agency has distilled from the lessons of recent law enforcement actions, closed investigations, and experiences companies have shared about starting with security at their business.
Between summer and fall of 2017, the FTC hosted five roundtable discussions with small business owners in collaboration with the Small Business Administration, the National Cyber Security Alliance, and other federal and local partners. The goal of the Small Business & Cybersecurity Roundtables: Engage, Connect, Protect was to listen to business owners and managers, learn from them about challenges they face when dealing with cyber threats and security, and hear their ideas on how the government can help them. The roundtable discussions took place in Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Dover, Delaware; and Portland, Oregon.