Webinar presenters Nicholas Mastrocinque and Seena Gressin answered a number of your questions after their presentation, “Identity Theft and Consumer Fraud Investigations.” Here are a few of their responses.
Audience Question: As you can imagine a number of people message us, asking for a little bit more detail regarding access to the non-public site of Sentinel. So, questions like what is this civil agency and some of the more specific agencies they wanted to know if they’d be able to get access to the non-public site include for adult protective services, victim advocate and licensed private investigators and pretty much all them indicated they would like to be able to access Sentinel know to be able to protect their clients.
Nick Mastrocinque: Good question, you can join the sentinel network, the private law enforcement website if you are government, represent a government agency and your government agency has some sort of law enforcement authority which we define as those having civil or criminal power that is the power to bring cases or to fine or to license. If you meet those qualifications, you can go to ftc.gov/sentinel and you will find the registration part. In some cases, agencies have already registered you can go in under your agency but again you need to be representing their government agency and need to have some sort of civil or criminal law enforcement power. That’s the only way by which we can advocate you getting into, providing you access to the database. Beyond that, if you don’t need those qualifications, we can offer you public information and that’s available at ftc.gov/sentinel that’s the data and visualization parts, as well the reports, that’s the public information. The demo I did was just a very small demo that truly just for their demonstration purposes. So, that’s, you know, just that a demo.
Audience Question: Are agencies allowed to disseminate aggregate information from Sentinel such as the top scams and their state with the public to things like social media?
Nick Mastrocinque: We prefer that you use the data that we provide on those formats and many cases it’s going to come through things like the Databook the one I showed the demonstration is from 2017-2018 should be out within a month. That will have a lot of features. If those don’t meet what you’re trying to do you can go and use the Tableau the data and visualization to generate your information or you can ask us for data that you can disseminate through social media. For those specific requests, if you’re not finding what you’re looking for you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the FTC and file a request for the data. But the goal, the reason for us trying to do as much as we can to assist you with the data is that we provide the most precise data and because we have some data in our system that can put together those request as they have availability.
Audience Question: Beyond the scam alert ability to subscribe to the scam alert just as you demonstrated does the FTC trends and the latest iteration of the latest scams? And do you share these trends to law enforcement and other government organization to briefing newsletter or anything like that?
Seena Gressin: We do and we track through the Spotlight report. Some of you might have seen our latest report on Romance Scams and which is been picked up widely on the press. It’s also on our blog post, that sort of information. We don’t go looking for an individual police department unless we’re actually looking at somebody operating in their area but we do certainly give information about the scams we’re seeing.
Nick Mastrocinque: This is the data spotlight seen on the screen for a romance scam. Again, Data Spotlight is an analysis of current trends that happening in the data that we see that we make public and you can broadcast it as far wide as you’d like.
Audience Question: From a law enforcement perspective does the offshore suspect such as those from Jamaica and other countries ever actually get prosecuted?
Nick Mastrocinque: I can see we have a higher degree of success with cases where we have a domestic defendant, I think I’m limited on how I answer that depending on. It’s more an agency and enforcement question but to the extent that we have more domestic dependent which we do in some cases it doesn’t enable us to be more effective in law enforcement, and Kim’s point will is well taken on that. There are a lot more international robocall and international scams where makes it difficult for the FTC to pursue but we have pursued. One example I would share is that we have successfully closed in cooperation with our Office of International Affairs. Robocall centers in India that are doing IRS imposters scams, as well as a host of other ones. So, it is difficult but not impossible and we are as an agency pursuing it vigorously.
Audience Question: Does the victim himself have to file a report to the website or can and should law enforcement do that for them? If the victim doesn’t either does not opt to or wants to have law enforcement do that?
Nick Mastrocinque: Either way works if you decide a third party and it doesn’t have to be law enforcement. I know we have a lot of advocates on the phone if you want to file the half of someone it’s always good to get that consumers consent before putting in the information. In many cases sometimes the third party is putting in misinformation and, in some cases, it’s necessary if the person is incapacitated or a minor, and they’re just unable to do it. If you are an agency and you want to provide complaints to us, let’s say you want a special link on your website to show your contributing data to Sentinel. We can do that and you can reach me at email@example.com to arrange that. Entities that we saw such as the IRS that send consumers to the FTC and we track how many complaints are coming from various entities.
Audience Question: You mention the FTC receives complaints related to smart devices, this is a broad category. Can you tackle a little bit about these cases or how they’re categorized?
Nick Mastrocinque: We categorize the types of complaints that are available to… that we mark as these. They are available on the website. If you go to ftc.gov/foia you can get a copy of those. It’s under hot topics, the number of consumer categories. There are one hundred of these, we have added recently more technologically-oriented one. There’s a connected consumer devices, one for things like smart appliances, one for things like activity trackers. We’ve also added a revised definition of Malware to broaden that as well, so that includes other devices and we’ve added other categories. The goal is to find a category where the consumer good or service offered did the consumer is appropriately categorized. That’s how we know things that, for example, impostors are the number 3 scam from 2017.
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