It is very important that you file a fraud complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you feel you have been victimized. Even if it may not help resolve your immediate situation, it will help law enforcement agencies and the FTC to stop con artists from continuing with their practices and even bring them to justice. A complaint can be filed online or over the telephone via 1-888-FTC-HELP.
If you have been ripped off, or if you have spotted a scam, it is very important that you don’t just keep that information to yourself. You must immediately contact the FTC for any type of complaint. See the FTC as the Consumer Protection Agency of the country, which means that they are there to make sure businesses that don’t stick to their words, or if individuals cheat you, they will be held accountable for this.
How to Submit a Complaint to the FTC
It is very easy to report unfair business practices, identity theft or fraud. Simply visit ftc.gov/complaint and click on the Complaint Assistant icon. You will then be taken to a number of easy to answer questions in order to file your complaint. The more information you have that is relevant to the situation, the better it is and the more likely it is that the perpetrator will be brought to justice. Hence, try to have the following on hand:
- Your contact details and address details.
- The type of service or product that is involved in the scam.
- Any information you have about the seller, such as their name and address, website and perhaps even the name of a representative.
- Any details you have about the transaction itself, such as how much you paid, how and when.
Unfortunately, the FTC is not able to resolve each complaint individually. But they do have a number of tips to help you get your money back.
Complaints about a range of topics can be entered with the FTC, which include:
- National Do Not Call Registry violations
- Identity theft
- Telemarketing scams
- Computers, online privacy and the internet
- Immigration services
- Credit scams
- Business opportunities, including work at home schemes
- Lotteries, sweepstakes and prizes
- Debt collection, financial matters and credit reports
- Health and weight loss products
About the FTC Complaints Assistant
People are recommended to regularly visit the FTC Complaints Assistant to see whether new information is available. There are currently two specific alerts, for instance. The first is that if someone claims to be a government representative, family member or business, this should be reported immediately. The second is about concerns in terms of how a business handles personal and private information. This is separate from identity theft.
From the Complaint Assistant, you can first choose a complaint category, which will then present a number of sub-categories. Each category also has a ‘no match found’ option, which will mean the FTC will categorize the complaint for you. You will then be presented with a number of questions and an opportunity to describe what has happened. Besides using this information to prosecute fraudsters, the FTC also uses it detect patterns of abuse and fraud. The categories are:
- Identity theft where someone used your personal information or filed taxes in your name.
- Attempted identity theft, where someone tried to use your personal information.
- Data breach, whereby a company experiences a breach in their data, thereby exposing your personal information.
- Lost purse or wallet, which could put you at risk of having your identity stolen
- Counterfeit checks, whereby you have received a business, cashier or personal check or money order during any transaction that was counterfeit.
- Impostor scams, whereby a fraudster pretends to be a family member or friend, a well-known business or a government agency.
- Lotteries, sweepstakes or prizes, whereby you will be asked to make a payment in return for prizes, gifts, lottery tickets and so on.
- Romance scams, whereby someone pretends to have a romantic interest in you but then starts to ask for money.
- Telemarketing, whereby people phone you without you wanting them to on either your cellphone or landline.
- Text, whereby you receive unwanted text messages on your cellphone.
- Spam, where you receive fraudulent or unwanted emails.
- Mobile services and devices, including plans, poor quality service, billing problems, concerns about apps or software, refund policies and so on.
- Landline telephone services or devices, whereby you have concerns about how these services are provided by a company, including their internet phone service, billing or carrier switching processes.
- Unwanted text messages, which is as described above, where your cellphone receives text messages that you have not asked for.
- Internet services, including providers, online auctions, online privacy of children, web design services, social networking, internet gaming and so on.
- Online shopping, where there are order-related issues, problems with the merchandise or issues relating to refunds or shipping.
- Computers, if you are attacked by malware, adware, spyware or other malicious viruses or if you have any other concerns in relation to hardware or software.
- Education, which includes online education, for-profit schools, educational scholarships and diploma programs.
- Business opportunities, such as franchises, work at home plans or distributorships.
- Pyramid schemes or multi-level marketing schemes, whereby these plans are sold or distributed. These include chain letters.
- Job offers, where scammers ask you for personal information or money in order to obtain a job.
- Credit and loans, such as credit reporting, credit cards, payday loans, mortgages and more.
- Debt, including how a company tries to collect their debit, but also the behavior of credit counseling companies and debt management or credit repair companies.
- Automobile, including renting, financing, title loans, leasing, services, parts or advertising.
- Cable TV or satellite provider, including their service or their advertisement methods.
- Magazines, including subscriptions and content.
- Scholarships or grants, including personal grants, government grants and educational scholarships.
- Health and fitness, including services, plans, products, prescriptions, treatments and fitness centers.
How the FTC Handles Your Information
What You Can Expect from the FTC
When you file a complaint, it may help the FTC and its law enforcement partners to identify patterns of abuse and fraud. This, in turn, could lead to investigations that could stop unfair business practices from happening. All information is entered into a secure online database that is access by law enforcement agencies on local, state, federal and international level. Unfortunately, individual complaints cannot be resolved by the FTC, but they can provide information on the next steps to take and give you advice.
The FTC also recommends that everyone register with the National Do Not Call Registry. This gives you the opportunity to stop unwanted telemarketing calls. Once your number has been on the register for 31 days, you should no longer receive any telephone calls. If you do, you should lodge a complaint with both the FTC and with www.donotcall.gov.
How to Get Your Money Back
There are a number of tips provided by the FTC to help you get your money back. One of the most important tips is their sample complaint letter that asks the manufacturer or seller of a product for a refund. In addition, there are also many strategies and tips in terms of how to properly make a case and how to find other organizations that can fight your corner. The biggest recommendation is to not trust any company that claims to be able to help you get back your money if you pay a fee. These are always scammers.
Do also look into FTC’s refund program. Through this program, the FTC will sue any company that has made deceptive claims about their services or products. Sometimes, this may mean affected people will receive a refund. Some cases in which refunds have been provided are listed on the FTC website.