The Federal Trade Commission has announced it will publish the consumer complaints it receives on a quarterly basis going forward, increasing the frequency from the annual publication it had been making.
In making the data more available, the FTC has also unveiled a new data visualization tool that offers dashboards and access to the annual reports that the FTC has released in the past. The dashboards allow users to drill down to state level and view the number of complaints on a variety of topics, including debt collection. The tool also offers access to historical data, allowing users to identify trends and changes in consumer behaviors.
“Our new tool will provide a more timely snapshot of what consumers are reporting, while empowering users to explore the data by types of fraud, state, and a variety of other dimensions,” the FTC said.
The announcement of the new publishing schedule and the data visualization tool was accompanied by a special report from the FTC, detailing a “disturbing” trend — scammers asking to be paid in gift cards, usually iTunes and Google Play cards. The number of such scams has increased by 270% in the past three years, according to the FTC. Such imposter scams, in which the fraudster impersonates a government official, tech support representative, or even a loved one in trouble, are among the most frequent source of consumer complaints, right top there with identity theft and debt collection, according to the FTC.
Gift cards are attractive to scammers because they are virtually untraceable and can not be reversed once purchased and used, unlike credit or debit cards.