The Federal Trade Commission testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs today about the work the agency is doing to crack down on fraud and related threats against veterans and the broader military community. The testimony discussed fraud, enforcement actions, and rulemaking initiatives involving the military community, and the FTC’s military-specific consumer education and outreach efforts.
Testifying on behalf of the Commission, the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Monica Vaca, stressed that combating scams and unlawful tactics aimed at the military community is an important part of the Commission’s law enforcement agenda. In 2022, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel consumer complaint database received over 195,000 complaints from the military community, including over 150,000 reports from veterans and military retirees. Military consumers reported monetary harm of over $414 million from fraud, an increase of more than 50 percent from the previous year.
According to the testimony, the FTC has responded with enforcement actions combating illegal practices that harm military consumers, including deceptive earnings claims, educational recruitment tactics, illegal auto-related and financing practices, and bogus charities.
The testimony emphasizes that while the Commission remains vigilant in combating fraud and other unlawful business practices, it continues to face difficult challenges with the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in AMG v. FTC, which held that the FTC does not have the ability to obtain monetary relief pursuant to Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. Although the Commission has worked to use other legal tools and authorities, the AMG decision has continued to cripple the agency’s ability to move forward with claims seeking billions of dollars for affected consumers, including veterans, servicemembers, and their families.
The testimony also states that in addition to the agency’s law enforcement actions, education and outreach is a vital part of the Commission’s consumer protection and fraud prevention work. Identity theft has been a focus of the agency’s outreach efforts. An FTC analysis of five years of data suggests that active duty servicemembers experience highly disproportionate instances of theft from their financial accounts compared to the general population, according to the testimony. The Commission’s education and outreach program reaches tens of millions of people a year, including through agency websites and social media presence, according to the testimony. The FTC also continues to coordinate closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and disseminate information about avoiding scams and recovering from identity theft.
The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 3-0.