The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has broad jurisdiction to tackle unfair and deceptive practices in the marketplace and identifies and stops some of the most pernicious frauds that prey on consumers. The FTC’s enforcement experience shows that older adults have been targeted or disproportionately affected by fraudsters in the context of various deceptive schemes. For example, in the past fiscal year, the FTC has brought law enforcement actions against a range of schemes that affected older adults, which involved phony grants, sweepstakes, purported technical support, business opportunities, apartment listings, and deceptive anti-aging product claims.
In October 2018, the FTC released a comprehensive report, Protecting Older Consumers 2017-2018: A Report of the Federal Trade Commission, describing the FTC’s efforts to combat fraud affecting older adults through research, law enforcement, and education. In all three areas, a key source for information in developing effective strategies is consumer report data. The FTC collects consumer report information through Consumer Sentinel Network (“Sentinel”), an online database that provides federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with access to consumer reports about frauds, identity theft, and other consumer protection problems.
During 2017, Sentinel took in nearly 2.7 million reports from consumers directly and through its data contributors, including 1,138,306 fraud reports. Forty-nine percent of those included consumer age information. The FTC analyzed the 2017 complaint information received from consumers who reported their ages as 60 or older, and what follows is a summary of that analysis.