The FTC's Consumer Complaint Database: Now Interactive & More Accessible

By Gianna Barrere
October 25, 2018
Concentrated young hacker in glasses stealing money from different credit cards sitting in dark room

The Federal Trade Commission is serious in the regulation of service providers, vendors, marketers and advertisers in the consumer finance space. With a vision to protect consumers by preventing deceptive and unfair business practices, the FTC manages issues that touch the economic life of every American.

Each year, millions of consumer complaints are collected by the FTC in their Consumer Sentinel Database. Complaint topics vary from fraud and identity theft, to scams created intentionally to deceive consumers. Previously, the database was only available to law enforcement agencies, but in 2018, the FTC started making consumer complaint information accessible to the public. Aggregated data on a quarterly basis will now be released through a new interactive online tool within the Consumer Sentinel Network, providing a more timely outlook into what consumers are reporting rather than the annual report previously created by the FTC. The commission is also introducing a deep dive report, the Consumer Protection Data Spotlight — derived from complaint data — as part of the initiative.

The first Data Spotlight focuses on the rise of scammers demanding payment with gift cards. Consumers are being tricked by imposters, requesting money for a variety of fabricated reasons, like payment for technical support services to remove “viruses” from a computer. Scammers are also posing as representatives from well-known companies, or government agencies in order to compel people to pay.

The Data Spotlight unveiled the following trends:

  • The FTC found that gift and reload cards were the payment vehicle for 26% of fraud reports from January through September of 2018, because they’re anonymous, fast and irreversible.
  • The percentage of consumer complaints submitted to the FTC surrounding this claim has increased 270% since 2015.

Beyond gift card imposter scams, the FTC has revealed that as of October 16th, 2018, the top ranked complaint categories reported are debt collection, credit bureaus, banks and lenders, credit cards and education.

The most recent Data Spotlight highlights that millennials are 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than people aged 40 or older. While people sometimes think that scams mostly affect older adults, recent complaint trends show otherwise. Some notable trends from this Data Spotlight include:

  • Millennials have reported losing $450 million to fraud in just the past two years
  • Online shopping accounted for $71 million in reported losses
  • Millennials are 77% more likely than older consumers to report that they lost money to a scam that started with an email.

Even more datasets, visualizations and reports can be found in the Consumer Sentinel Network’s new interactive online dashboard. The easy-to-use navigation reveals detailed insights into state by state data, top reports, fraud facts and losses, military fraud, detailed report categories and much more. Through this accessible database and new quarterly reporting, the FTC will continue to shine a light on the important stories consumers are sharing in order to support their mission of protecting and educating consumers, while promoting competition.


Tags: FTC, Consumer Complaints