In October, the FTC launched a new tool to view aggregated consumer complaint data. Rather than being released annually, the FTC will now release this data on a quarterly basis. Users can see aggregated consumer complaint data organized by state, type of consumer issue (fraud etc…), the amount of loss and other detailed information.

For example, in Virginia alone we have lost over $19 million to fraud (last year was approximately $15 million); further, Virginia is ranked #2 for reports of travel, vacation and the dreaded timeshare fraud. This gives consumers more information to help weed out scams and other fraudulent offers.

For more aggregated information, go to: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/data-visualizations

The FTC also launched its new Consumer Protection Data Spotlight, which will give insights on the kinds of complaints that the FTC receives, in addition to aggregated data. Will the trends in complaints indicate where the FTC will focus its efforts? Perhaps.

The FTC notes that between 2015 and 2018, complaints involving gift cards increased 270%, specifically, complaints involving gift cards as payment mechanisms. Below, some practical tips on how to avoid gift card scams:

1) Consumers should be cautions when someone demands to be paid with a gift card.

2) Retailers should be suspicious if someone purchases multiple gift cards but seems evasive if asked why.

3) If you’re a gift card issuer or a program manager, give consumers an easy way to report fraud – that’s how the bad actors get caught.

Even if the FTC isn’t imposing any rules per se on gift card issuers and managers, they are certainly indicating that businesses need to be aware of and take responsibility for preventing their gift cards from being used for fraudulent activities.

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/data-spotlight