FTC Reports Record Surge In eCommerce Complaints Amid Pandemic

Federal Trade Commission

While online purchasing has skyrocketed since March as the country shut down as a defense against COVID-19, so have complaints to the federal watchdog agency responsible for regulating eCommerce.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received a record number of complaints related to online shopping, the agency reported on Wednesday (July 1).

The FTC’s Consumer Protection Data Spotlight shows that in April and May, the agency received more than 34,000 complaints from consumers related to online shopping.

Of that number, more than 18,000 shoppers said they ordered items that were never delivered. The most common missing items included face masks, sanitizer, toilet paper, thermometers and gloves, the FTC said.

While online shopping complaints to the FTC have been on the rise for a number of years, reports of unreceived items in May represented a nearly two-fold increase over the number of reports in December, the heart of the busy holiday shopping season, the agency said.

On March 31, the FTC said it had received more than 7,800 complaints from consumers related to the coronavirus pandemic, twice the number it received the week before.

Complaints at the time stemmed from canceled travel and vacations as well as online shopping issues and government imposter scams. Coronavirus-related complaints have hit $4.77 million, with an average loss of nearly $600.

Also in March, PYMNTS reported while online sales are expected to exceed $630 billion this year, fraudsters will steal more than $12 billion.

eCommerce retailers deal with 206,000 web attacks per month, according to online security company Signal Sciences. Attacks happen constantly, with increasingly sophisticated tactics, the report said as criminals now mimic the behavior of legitimate shoppers to hide their activity, Signal said.

Consumers who want to file a complaint with the FTC can do so online, using the agency’s Complaint Assistant, or they can call 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).


New PYMNTS Report: Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook – July 2020 

Call it the great tug-of-war. Fraudsters are teaming up to form elaborate rings that work in sync to launch account takeovers. Chris Tremont, EVP at Radius Bank, tells PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can beat such highly organized fraudsters at their own game. In the July 2020 Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook, Tremont lays out how.