Network News: Spring 2021

Spring 2021
Volume 14 | Issue 2
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Consumer Sentinal Network

Spring Data Expansion

World Data

Spring brings new Sentinel data contributors.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is adding an additional source of reporting to their data contributions to Sentinel, sharing information from their cross-border complaints reported to their Scamwatch complaint portal from consumers in Australia.  In addition, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration now provides government impostor complaints.  We have also expanded the U.S. Department of Justice, Disaster Fraud Task Force data feed to include unemployment benefits fraud complaints.  Later this spring, the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General will become a data contributor.  Multiple local police departments have also arranged special links by which consumers can file a complaint with Report  If your organization would like to inquire about contributing data, please contact       

FTC Highlights

FTC staff issued a report highlighting the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report addresses challenges consumers face during the pandemic and details the Commission’s strategy to combat COVID-related fraud and other consumer issues using sophisticated targeting, aggressive law enforcement, and ongoing partnership and outreach.

The FTC also has an agency-wide summary of its 2020 accomplishments here.  One key accomplishment was the launching of a new streamlined and user-friendly website,, where consumers can easily report scams, frauds, and bad business practices.    

Stopping Fake COVID Claims

There are no supplements proven to treat or prevent COVID-19.  But that doesn’t stop some companies from making these kind of unsubstantiated claims or even false claims that their products work as well — or better — than available COVID-19 vaccines.   

The first action taken under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act charges St. Louis-based chiropractor Eric Anthony Nepute and his company Quickwork LLC with deceptively marketing vitamin D and zinc products as proven immunity boosters that effectively treat or prevent COVID-19.  What’s more, the defendants claim their products offer equal or better protection from the disease than available vaccines.  The complaint, filed by the Department of Justice on the FTC’s behalf, says that the defendants don’t have the scientific evidence to back up their treatment or prevention claims, much less the claims that their products are as good as (or superior to) approved COVID-19 vaccines.

In addition, as part of ongoing efforts to protect consumers from sellers of scam COVID-19 treatments, the FTC has sent 30 warning letters to companies that claimed their products can prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.  These letters gave the sellers 48 hours to notify the FTC of the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.  Companies failing to make adequate corrections could have faced lawsuits under the 2020 COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.  Not only does the law make it illegal to deceptively market products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19, it also lets the FTC seek financial penalties. The good news: as a result of these letters, all the companies have stopped making the false or deceptive claims.

Did You Know?


The Advanced Search feature in Sentinel has a “Show All Fields” option.  Users have employed the extra fields to find consumers who are members of the armed forces or dependents; who have filed unemployment insurance complaints (Topic); or who are Informants (Contact Type).  You can learn more at the next online Sentinel training session: simply email for details.  

Sentinel Data Aids in Sending Millions of Dollars for Consumer Redress

Sentinel data aided the FTC in sending payments totaling nearly $50 million to more than 147,000 University of Phoenix (UOP) students who may have been lured by allegedly deceptive advertisements.

The refunds stem from a lawsuit the FTC filed against UOP alleging that it used deceptive advertisements that falsely touted its relationships and job opportunities with companies such as AT&T, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Twitter, and the American Red Cross.  The FTC also alleged that UOP’s advertising gave the false impression that the online school worked with those companies to create job opportunities for its students and tailor its curriculum for such jobs.

Sentinel data also helped lead to Amazon paying more than $61.7 million to settle FTC charges that it failed to pay Amazon Flex drivers the full amount of tips they received from Amazon customers over a two and a half year period. The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company stopped its behavior only after becoming aware of the FTC’s investigation in 2019.  The $61.7 million represents the full amount that Amazon allegedly withheld from drivers; the FTC will use the money to compensate drivers.

Sentinel Data Helps Stop Elderly Fraud

The FTC was pleased to aid law enforcement with Sentinel data to stop a lottery fraud scheme targeting elderly consumers.  In the scheme, Jamaican-based scammers called elderly victims in the United States, claiming the victims had won a lottery. To receive their winnings, the victims were told they must first pay money for taxes and fees.  The victim losses exceeded $600,000.


The FTC will host its sixth annual PrivacyCon on July 27, 2021.  PrivacyCon 2021 will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including researchers, academics, industry representatives, consumer advocates, and government regulators to discuss the latest research and trends related to consumer privacy and data security.

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