FTC unveils new Web site that tracks fraud and identity theft

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unveiled a new Web site Monday designed to educate consumers on the prevalence of fraud, fraud on the Internet, and identity theft, and provide information on how to spot and avoid fraud and deception online and off.

The ”Consumer Sentinel” Web site (http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel) will offer statistics and other information compiled from more than 300,000 consumer complaints that have been lodged with the FTC. More than 80 public and private organizations are contributing data to the Web site’s underlying database. Contributors include the Better Business Bureau, the National Consumer League and the United States Postal Inspection Service, and several international agencies, including Canada’s Phonebusters and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The site will handle Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints

”There’s strength in numbers,” says Jodie Bernstein, who directs the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. ”We hope consumers will find the site informative and helpful.”

FTC officials say the new Web site has partnered with 250 U.S. and international law enforcement agencies. Consumers will be able to access the new site to determine whether their local law enforcement agencies are associated with Consumer Sentinel and to file complaints about any fraud or identity theft crime perpetrated against them.

In addition to providing hard data on computer crime, the Web site breaks down the information by region, cost and frequency of occurrence, and the location of companies most frequently cited as being responsible for such violations.

”Providing public access to statistics collected from the Sentinel database supports Better Business Bureau efforts to empower consumers with information to identify fraudulent offers,” says Ken Hunter, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The FTC found, from statistics compiled for the year 2000, that while only 12% of victims of identity theft admitted to having a personal relationship with the perpetrator, a total of 62% had at least some knowledge of the identity thief.