Network News - September 2015

September 2015
Volume 8 | Issue 5
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Sentinel 3.0


We want your input! The Consumer Sentinel Network team is considering adding data analytics functions – for instance, widgets – to support the user experience. This new functionality could generate small graphs and charts depicting top companies, complaint categories, and complaint distribution in your state. Stay tuned for details about our upcoming autumn workshop to explore these proposed improvements.

New improvement: GPEN

As part of its commitment to international cooperation, the FTC has used the CSN platform to create a mechanism for authorities participating in the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) to alert each other of privacy investigations. Enforcement authorities can use it as a starting point to share information and coordinate consumer privacy protection, a critical element of GPEN’s mission.

Privacy, please

The FTC’s online Complaint Assistant has some new features to help users. The Privacy Banner makes it easier for consumers to submit their privacy-related complaints, while other modifications help people report complaints related to education.


To date, the FTC has brought more than a hundred lawsuits against over 600 companies and individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls and other Do Not Call violations.

Member training

The CSN team has held outreach and training sessions for over 400 law enforcers from consumer protection agencies this year, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Academy in Potomac, Maryland. Want to learn how to get the data in Sentinel to work for you? Email to participate in the next online training.

Identity theft: Recovery is easier with a plan

Imagine: a stranger opened a cell phone account in your son’s name and now bill collectors are calling. As a law enforcement officer, you know that identity theft can affect anyone. Whether the victim is a family member, someone in your community, or even you, is the FTC’s one-stop resource for reporting and recovering from identity theft. It’s a powerful tool for combating identity theft and helping crime victims recover. The site guides visitors through the recovery process, starting with four essential steps to take at the first sign of something amiss. Visit or, for Spanish speakers,

Car dealers

Planet Nissan and Planet Hyundai agreed to settle FTC charges that they misrepresented the cost of buying or leasing a vehicle. According to the complaint, the auto dealers advertised car sales, leasing, or financing options that seemed attractive, but were canceled out by fine-print disclaimers. The FTC alleges that some of the company’s disclaimers left out relevant terms – like the total amount due at signing; other ads said leases were available for zero money down, even though thousands of dollars were due at signing.

Did you know?

Litigation holds enable users to mark complaints so they are not deleted in periodic purges. To place a hold, conduct an Advanced Search, then look for the option on the right-hand side. Litigation holds last a maximum of one year; you will be notified of expiration dates.

Up for the challenge

The FTC held two successful Robocall Challenges this summer: DetectaRobo and Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back. The most recent challenges sought solutions to block robocalls and develop robocall honeypots for law enforcement. The DetectaRobo challenge was held in conjunction with the National Civic Day of Hacking, where contestants analyzed call data from an existing honeypot to develop algorithms that identified likely robocalls. The winning teams examined temporal information and area codes and applied machine learning techniques.

Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back was hosted at DEF CON 23 in Las Vegas. The winners, Team RoboKiller, developed an app that applies audio analytics to identify the robocalls to block and forward to a crowd-sourced honeypot. They built a robot named “Rachel from Cardholder Services” that played the Rachel sales pitch, launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds needed to bring their solution to market, and produced a video of how their solution works. The current challenges were built on the Commission’s equally successful previous challenges (the FTC Robocall Challenge and Zapping Rachel), one of which garnered the Partnership for Public Service’s BAIR Award.

New data contributor

The Vermont Attorney General will soon become the 21st state Attorney General’s office to share its data with the CSN. If you have consumer complaint data, you can help fellow CSN members boost their law enforcement capabilities by sharing it in the CSN. Contact for details.

New members

The Consumer Sentinel Network welcomes new members from six states:

  • California (the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force of the Marin County District Attorneys Office);
  • Illinois (Downers Grove and Park Ridge Police Departments);
  • Maryland (the Maryland State Police’s Criminal Intelligence Section and Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection);
  • New York (New York City Police Department, 72nd Precinct, Detective Squad);
  • Texas (DeSoto Police Department); and
  • Wisconsin (Waukesha Police Department, Criminal Investigative Division).

New CSN point of contact

Starting in October, Nick Mastrocinque is on temporary assignment to the FTC’s Office of the Inspector General. While he’s away, contact Chris Stone with your CSN questions and concerns at (202)326-3138,, or

Out and about

FTC staff has discussed CSN’s resources at several recent trainings, meetings and workshops, including the IRS Criminal Investigations’ National Identity Theft and Refund Crimes Trainings, the FCC’s Robocall and Caller ID Spoofing Workshop, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Consumer Sentinel Network

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