Network News - March 2015

March 2015
Volume 8 | Issue 2
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Sentinel Data Book

Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2015

The FTC released the 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. Sentinel received more than 2.5 million complaints last year. Those include complaints people made directly to the FTC as well as complaints filed with other law enforcers, consumer protection groups and non-governmental organizations that then shared the data with Sentinel. The report includes national data, a state-by-state accounting of top complaint categories and a listing of the metropolitan areas that generated the most complaints. The #1 category is identity theft – as it has been for the past 15 years. For the first time, imposter scams jumped into the top three complaint categories, primarily because of the sharp spike in complaints about IRS and other government imposter scams. 

Member training

The Consumer Sentinel Network team has held outreach and training sessions for nearly 75 law enforcers from consumer protection agencies. The team recently gave a presentation on the FTC’s consumer protection mission for the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs. Want to learn how to get the data in Sentinel to work for you? Email to attend the next online training.


In 2013, the FTC logged about 2,500 complaints about criminals impersonating IRS officials; in 2014 that number increased to more than 54,000 – or more than twenty times the amount of complaints from the previous year.

Getting better all the time

The Consumer Sentinel Network team continues to improve users’ experience with Sentinel. On tap for this year are developing a new way to access Sentinel using telephone authentication, a revamped webpage, and an expansion to the FTC’s identity theft complaint collection system. Watch this space to learn more in the coming months.

Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back

The FTC launched two new robocall contests challenging the public to develop a crowd-sourced honeypot to lure and better analyze data about robocalls. Contestants can compete for a top prize of $25,000. As part of Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back, the FTC asks contestants to create a technical solution to identify, block and forward unwanted robocalls to a honeypot. The qualifying phase runs through June 15 and the final phase concludes at DEF CON 23 on Aug. 9. The Commission also will host a new data analytics contest, DetectaRobo, during the National Day of Civic Hacking (National Day) on June 6. This is the first time the FTC is launching a contest during National Day, which is an annual global effort to unite citizens who are interested in collaborating with government to solve a variety of technical challenges.

The “Grate” Pretenders

Imposters scams are suddenly everywhere. A lot of con artists are pretending to be from legitimate organizations or someone you know or trust to trick you into parting with your cash or personal information. But it helps to know the different forms imposter scams can take.

Sweeping up after sweepstakes promoters

An FTC settlement permanently bans a sweepstakes operator from direct mail marketing and holds the outfit liable for a $9.5 million judgment, in part, for running a sweepstakes scam that violated a previous court order. In April 2007, Crystal Ewing and other defendants were banned from prize promotions and settled FTC charges that they deceptively enticed people to send money to collect large cash prizes that, in fact, did not exist. Ewing now admits to violating the 2007 court order through her work with another FTC defendant, Glen Burke, and a prize promotions company, Puzzles Unlimited LLC, that duped people with the illusory promise of sweepstakes winnings in exchange for fees.

Cruisin’ for a violation

The FTC and 10 state attorneys general – from Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington – have taken action against a cruise line company and seven other companies that assisted a massive telemarketing campaign responsible for billions of robocalls. The FTC and state partners allege that that the companies illegally made millions for the cruise line when they sold vacations by using political survey robocalls that incorporated a sales pitch. The complaint also charges a group of five interrelated companies, and their owner, Fred Accuardi, with facilitating the illegal cruise calls. These defendants gave robocallers hundreds of phone numbers for placing calls, made it possible for robocallers to choose and change the names that would appear on recipients’ caller ID devices, and hid the robocallers’ identities from authorities.

New data contributors

The Nevada Department of Business and Industry will soon share its complaint data with CSN. In addition, the Scam Detector app now refers complaints to the FTC online complaint website. Does your office gather consumer complaint data? You can help fellow Consumer Sentinel members boost their law enforcement capabilities by sharing those complaints with us. Contact for details.


Sentinel welcomes new members from two states: California (Oceanside Police Department) and Illinois (the Roselle and Lake Forest Police Departments). It also welcomes the Inspectors General Offices of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Reserve Board and the CFPB.


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