On March 3, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an annual summary of consumer complaints, highlighting trends in the various categories of consumer complaints received by the Commission over the past year. The agency released its overview in the form of the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January – December 2016 (2016 Data Book)—which provides category breakdowns and state specific data extrapolated from the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN)—a secure online database of millions of consumer complaints available only to law enforcement, including, but not limited to, the FTC. In compiling the 2016 Data Book, the CSN collected more than 3.1 million consumer complaints, which the FTC sorted into 30 top complaint categories.

Florida, Georgia and Michigan were (again) the top three states for fraud and other complaints, while Michigan, Florida and Delaware were the top three states for identity theft complaints. The 2016 Data Book also reveals that debt-collection complaints remained the top category, comprising 28 percent of all complaints. The Commission attributes this “high number of reported debt collection complaints” to, among other things, “complaints submitted by a data contributor who collects complaints via a mobile app.” The Commission also identifies “imposter scams” as a “serious and growing problem.” In response to this trend, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Thomas Pahl, indicates that the agency “will use all the tools at its disposal to address it,” including “law enforcement actions against scammers and consumer education to help consumers avoid losing money.”

Another category that saw some movement was identity theft. While overall complaints in this category declined from 16 percent to 13 percent, 29 percent were consumers reporting that their data was used to commit tax fraud. Furthermore, there was a jump in those who reported “that their stolen data was used for credit card fraud. . .[a number that] rose from nearly 16 percent in 2015 to more than 32 percent in 2016.” And, rounding out the “Top Ten” consumer complaints for 2016 after debt-collection, imposter scams, and identify theft, were: telephone and mobile services, banks and lenders, prizes/sweepstakes/lotteries, shop-at-home/catalog sales, auto-related complaints, credit bureaus/information furnishers/report users, and television and electronic media complaints.

More information about the Consumer Sentinel Network and Data Book is available through www.FTC.gov/sentinel.