Consumers Can Tell It to the
FTC - Toll-Free
A product you bought through an Internet
auction months ago still hasn't been delivered. A newspaper
ad offers "Guaranteed Loans," but requires
a fee up front. A fabulous prize offer comes in the
mail, but requires a fee before you can claim it. A
scholarship service promises easy money for college
- as long as you send in a check. Sound familiar?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
says even wary and sophisticated consumers face a barrage
of fraudulent offers every day. The FTC ought to know:
last year, the agency logged in over 380,000 complaints
The FTC has made it easy for consumers
to report a fraud to the law enforcement agency through
a toll-free Consumer Help Line, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
The line is staffed by counselors from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.,
Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
According to Howard Beales, Director
of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, the toll-free
number offers consumers a two-fer. It makes the agency
more accessible to consumers who want to report a fraud,
and it makes their valuable complaint data available
to law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada.
"That's important because fraud has moved beyond
the front porch to cyberspace and all points in between,"
Consumer fraud complaints to the FTC
are entered into a database that is available to nearly
630 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada.
They use it to spot fraudulent activity, trends and
wrong-doers - and stop them.
"Through the toll-free Help Line,
consumers can get helpful information on the spot,"
Beales said. "Obviously, the FTC can't intervene
in individual disputes, but consumer complaint information
is crucial to the enforcement of consumer protection
laws. The information that consumers get on a particular
issue also lessens the likelihood that they'll be scammed
again. Education is a powerful consumer protection."