Annual Highlights 2019

Education

The Commission’s outreach program is a critical component of the FTC’s efforts to fulfill its consumer protection mission. The FTC’s consumer and business education reach tens of millions of people each year through the FTC’s website, the media, and partner organizations that disseminate consumer information on the agency’s behalf. The agency delivers actionable, practical, plain-language guidance on dozens of issues, and updates its consumer and business education materials whenever it has new information to share.

In 2019, the Consumer Center blog published 210 consumer blog posts (131 in English, 79 in Spanish) sent to more than 282,000 subscribers (243,492 in English, nearly 53,000 in Spanish). The most popular posts overall in 2019 were about Social Security imposters (with more than 5.6 million total views).

The Commission also developed several new offerings this year, including a video describing the warning signs of a Social Security scam, and expanding the topics covered by the Pass It On campaign to include unwanted calls, home repair scams, money mule scams, and work-at-home scams. As part of Operation Call It Quits, the FTC created new articles, videos, and shareable graphics with tips on battling unwanted calls. For the Tech Support Take Down 2019 campaign, the Commission developed a new video, infographic, and tips. The National Association of Attorneys Generals featured these resources on its site, which is a national forum to support the work of attorneys general and their staff.

A critical element of the FTC’s outreach program is collaborating with key partners. The agency works with partner networks to promote Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Financial Literacy Month, National Consumer Protection Week, Military Consumer Month, and more. It continued in 2019 to collaborate with community and ethnic media, holding roundtables in four cities around the country. The Commission also maintains an ongoing partnership with AARP to reach older adults. During the past year, the Commission has worked with AARP on events such as nationwide webinars and tele-town halls, a series of fraud prevention videos aimed at Asian American Pacific Islander older adults, and in-person events with AARP in Washington, Oregon, California, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

This year, the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Social Security Administration collaborated to produce a double-sided placemat (in English and Spanish) about Social Security scams. The agencies worked together to provide fraud education at senior centers, meal sites, and other places older adults gather. Within a week of release, organizations placed 100,000 orders for the placemat.

The FTC also works closely with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to reach the military community. To make sure military consumers are aware of their new rights under the Free Electronic Monitoring for Active Duty Military Rule, the Commission provided blogs, and webinars in collaboration with a wide range of partners. The Commission also updated IdentityTheft.gov and revised its identity theft publications, including the booklet for military personnel and families. The Commission also created new information cards explaining fraud alerts and credit freezes.

In addition, the FTC informs businesses of their rights and responsibilities. In 2019, the FTC’s Business Center blog—with nearly 83,000 subscribers—featured 119 blog posts for businesspeople and attorneys. During the same period, the public ordered more than 1.6 million copies of 17 business publications (in English and Spanish) and watched the FTC’s business videos for more than 165,800 views.

The Commission’s new publication, Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers, offers guidance to influencers and advertisers about how to comply with the established truth-in-advertising principle that any material connection between influencers and advertisers must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to consumers. The brochure’s plain-language approach and eye-catching graphics were designed to achieve two goals: to communicate the “clear and conspicuous” standard in a legally accurate way; and to convey the information in a manner that resonated with a social media-savvy audience. The accompanying how-to video registered more than 17,000 views in its first two months.

In the summer, the FTC held Green Lights-Red Flags: FTC Rules of the Road, a workshop in Atlanta that covered truth-in-advertising, data security, antitrust law basics, and other compliance topics. More than 200 business executives, in-house counsel, law firm practitioners, and ad agency personnel attended.

During National Small Business Week, FTC staff joined the National Cybersecurity Alliance for a webinar and with the Small Business Administration and other partners for a Twitter chat on small business cybersecurity.