According to the Federal Trade Commission, the number of consumer fraud complaints reported in 2012 was substantially higher than the previous year. In fact, the agency has observed yearly increases since 2006.
The federal government database, called the Consumer Sentinel Network, tracks reports of identity theft, abusive debt-collection practices, financial scams, and other potentially unlawful behavior. Of the 2.1 million complaints entered into the database in 2012, 25,000 were made by Minnesotans, who may have lost as much as $15.7 million to fraud.
Although consumers may be the largest reporting demographic to the FTC database, employees in fraudulent business operations may also have used the hotline. The reason such employees would opt for an anonymous hotline over in-person reporting is simple: Employees may fear retaliation or being fired for speaking out against their employers.
Such fears may be well founded. Employees who report illegal behavior against their employers may be subjected to a variety of adverse employment actions. Whistleblower retaliation can take many other forms besides firing, such as withheld promotions, poor performance reviews, or denied training opportunities.
Before taking action, a whistleblower might benefit from a consultation with an attorney who specializes in employment law. Such an attorney will know if there are protections against workplace retaliation available under federal or state whistleblowing laws. An attorney can help employees act on their conscience and report illegalities or regulatory violations, while at the same time ensuring that their future employment options are protected. For those employees who have already been wrongfully terminated for doing the right thing, an attorney can help them bring a successful whistleblower retaliation lawsuit.
Source: Star Tribune, “Whistleblower: Fraud complaints at a record high,” Jane Friedmann, March 2, 2013.