International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Sunday, February 7, 2021

FTC cases returned $483 million to people in 2020

You may know the FTC for its consumer information, and for taking action against shady companies that violate the law. But did you know the FTC returns millions of dollars to people as a result of those actions? In fact, last year, 1.7 million people nationwide and in 64 countries received payments totaling $483 million because of the FTC’s enforcement actions. People got refunds resulting from more than 50 FTC cases. The most money — around $300 million — went back to about 142,000 people because of a settlement with Western Union.

When the FTC sends refunds, it usually uses customer lists and contact information it gets from the defendants. If that information isn’t available, the agency may ask people to file a claim or use its Consumer Sentinel database to find people who are eligible for a refund. The database includes reports people make to the FTC, Better Business Bureaus, and federal, state, and local law enforcement offices. When you report a scam or fraud, you may help law enforcement, and yourself. For example, many people who reported sending money to lottery, romance, sweepstakes or other online scammers through Western Union got full refunds in 2020.

The FTC will never require you to pay fees in advance, or ask for sensitive information, like your bank account information. If someone contacts you and says they’re from the FTC but they want you to send money, it’s a scam. Even if they claim to be FTC Chairman Joe Simons — like some scammers have — if they ask for money, it’s a scam.

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