Network News - March 2014

March 2014
Volume 7 | Issue 1
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Consumer Sentinel Data Book


For the 14th year in a row, identity theft tops the FTC’s list of complaints that consumers submitted to the agency. That’s according to the FTC’s recently released Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2013, which describes the more than two million consumer complaints received last year. Fourteen percent – 290,000 complaints – related to identity theft; of these complaints, 30 percent involved tax- or wage-related identity theft. Of the more than 1.1 million other complaints, 61 percent of consumers reported losses totaling more than $1.6 billion. Other categories in the top 10 include debt collection and imposter scams.

Military Complaints in Sentinel

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education and Justice, along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, launched a new complaint process to gather information from veterans, servicemembers and their families pursuing higher education through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other military education benefits. The agencies created customized online reporting forms for students to file complaints with the VA and DoD about an educational program’s marketing and promises about cost of attendance, quality, course credit, graduation rates, and employment prospects upon completion. The Department of Education will take email complaints on these topics. The new process gives the federal government the information it needs to identify and address unfair practices and ensure high quality academic and student support services.


At the FTC’s request, a U.S. district court has held Bryon Wolf and Roy Eliasson in contempt, requiring them to pay $14.75 million. According to the contempt order, the defendants violated a December 2008 order that barred them from making misrepresentations and billing consumers without authorization. The original order involved the FTC’s case against Wolf, Eliasson and their company, Suntasia Marketing, Inc. In 2007, the FTC charged the operation with deceptively marketing negative-option programs and allegedly charging people’s bank accounts without their consent for a variety of programs, including memberships in discount buyer and travel clubs. The case is part of the FTC’s effort to monitor every Commission order for compliance. In the last 12 months alone, the FTC successfully tried five contempt cases. Consumers had complained in near-record numbers about Suntasia’s practices: in fact, the FTC collected more than 5,000 formal complaints submitted to various law enforcement agencies and the Better Business Bureau. The FTC also found thousands of additional complaint letters and refund requests from consumers in Suntasia’s possession.


The Consumer Sentinel Network received more than 9 million complaints from 2009 through 2013, and more than 13 million complaints related to the Do Not Call provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule during the same period.

Consumer Sentinel Data Book 2013

Arresting Matter

A federal judge ordered the arrest and incarceration of Paul Navestad for violating a court order in a phony government grant scheme. The court had ordered Navestad to pay $20 million – the biggest civil penalty against a defendant in an FTC case – and give up more than $1.1 million in ill-gotten gains. According to the FTC, Navestad made millions of robocalls falsely claiming that people could get grants from federal, state and local governments, private foundations and individuals.


Contact to arrange a Sentinel training session for your office or to attend an online training session in April and May.  The Sentinel team recently held training sessions for staff from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Academy, and a demonstration for IRS’ Global Financial Investigations.

Coaching Con

At the FTC’s request, a federal court has temporarily stopped a deceptive work-from-home scheme that conned consumers out of millions of dollars. According to the FTC, Essent Media, LLC, Net Training, LLC, YES International, Coaching Department and Apply Knowledge lied when they told people they could easily earn thousands of dollars a month by buying so-called business coaching services and establishing their own Internet businesses. The coaching services were phony.

Directory Scam

A federal court has banned a Slovakia-based operation from the online directory business and entered a $9 million judgment against them. In March 2013, the FTC charged Wolfgang Valvoda, Susanne Anhorn, and Construct Data Publishers a.s. with tricking small businesses and non-profits into paying millions of dollars to be listed in an online directory.


The Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and the Alaska Attorney General’s office now contribute their complaint data to the Sentinel Network.


The Sentinel Network has grown by 15 agencies, including agencies in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and Bulgaria.


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