The National Consumer Protection Technical Resource Center: The Center of Service & Information for SMPs

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Consumer Protection

Be a Conscientious Consumer

Has anyone ever called with news that sounded too good to be true? If the caller asked for your bank or Medicare numbers, it probably was. Scammers will play a range of tricks to try to get you to divulge personal information, which they can then use to rob your bank account or rob the Medicare system. Be a cautious, conscientious consumer. If you feel you've been a victim of fraud or want information on fighting fraud, contact your local SMP by clicking here.  

Here are some general tips:

  1. Don't give out any personal information to someone who has contacted you. Your Social Security, Medicare, and bank account numbers can be used against you. So can information such as the names of your children or grandchildren.
  2. Beware of people who say they're from an organization such as Medicare and they need to know your Medicare number. If they truly were from Medicare, they wouldn't need to ask. Nor would they call or visit your home unless you called them first.
  3. Never purchase items online from a website that you've found from an email link. It could be a fraudulent site. If you know the name of an organization you want to do business with, go to the website on your own. Only buy from secure websites -- those with "https" as part of their web addresses.
  4. If a charity calls wanting a donation and you'd like to donate, hang up, look up the name of the charity, and call yourself. The caller might not have been from the organization at all or might have been a middle man who funnels little of the donation to the charity.
  5. Get on the federal Do Not Call list. Click here.
  6. View additional tips from the National Council on Aging.
  7. View tips to avoid telemarketing scams from the Better Business Bureau. 

Year of Elder Abuse Prevention

Every year an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only what's reported. Experts believe the number could be five times that. The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), is sponsoring the Year of Elder Abuse Prevention (YEAP) to encourage national, state, and local organizations to protect seniors and raise awareness about this critical issue.

You can help identify, prevent, and respond to this hidden problem. Click here for a page with a pledge, toolkit, outreach guide, fact sheets, logo, poster, templates, web banners, and social media tools. You can take a stand against elder abuse this year.

Reporting Suspected Fraud

Visit www.stopfraud.gov for information on how to report all types of financial fraud. This website maintains a wide list of resources and information dedicated to helping find and report suspected cases of financial fraud.

FTC Resources

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal agency whose work touches the lives of every American. In addition to its vigorous law enforcement, the FTC produces a wealth of information that consumers can use to protect themselves every day. Here is a sample:

  • Affinity Fraud. Do you trust people more if they’re like you, or a part of your community? Scammers bet that you do. They take advantage of that unconscious trust, the FTC warns. It’s called “affinity fraud” when someone in a group uses their membership in that group to scam another member. Think religious, ethnic, or professional groups. The FTC provides tips on how to avoid affinity fraud.
  • Telemarketing fraudWho’s Calling? provides information about common telemarketing scams and how to avoid them, including credit and loan offers, identity theft, sweepstakes and lotteries, and work-at-home and business opportunities. It also explains and links to the National Do Not Call Registry, where people can register their phone number to limit the telemarketing calls they receive.
  • Identity Theft: Identity Theft Resources offers detailed information about what do to if your identity is stolen. Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims helps attorneys and victim advocates resolve legal problems for pro bono clients.
  • Online SafetyOnGuard Online  provides practical tips to help guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect personal information. The articles, games, and videos on the site cover dozens of topics, including spam scams and online shopping.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau makes markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans. It educates to protect against abusive practices, enforces federal consumer financial laws, and studies consumers, financial services providers, and consumer financial markets. Its Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans gives seniors information and tools to navigate safely through financial challenges. Click here for the homepage or here for information for older Americans.

Some resources:

Articles

For More Information

  • Better Business Bureau fosters a marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other. The website allows you to check out businesses and much more.
  • Families USA consumer protection page. A variety of resources for the consumer, including fact sheets on health care reform, state guides to insurance coverage, exposing scam insurance plans, and HIPAA protections.  
  • Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force improves efforts across the government and with state and local partners to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensures just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, recovers proceeds for victims, and addresses financial discrimination in the lending and financial markets.
  • Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States.
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives complaints of Internet-related crime through an easy-to-use online reporting mechanism. It alerts law enforcement authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations.  
  • National Consumers League. This nonprofit advocacy group's mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. Click here for its fraud page. The Fighting Fraud Against Older Consumers page includes tips on removing your name from marketing lists, telemarketing scams, and drug coverage scams.
  • State Attorney General: Contact your state attorney general’s office to report scams. The attorneys general serve as counselors to state government agencies and legislatures and as representatives of the public interest.
  • State Insurance Department: Contact your state insurance department for insurance company or insurance agent licensing information or to file a complaint against a company or agent.  
  • Stetson University Elder Consumer Protection Program. This program, at the Center for Excellence in Elder Law at Stetson University College of Law, serves as an educational, informational and instructional resource about general and legal matters in the areas of elder consumer protection, elder financial exploitation, and elder abuse prevention.
  • U.S. Postal Service. Its Fraud Against Older Americans page offers tips and links on protecting yourself and your loved ones from illegal telemarketing and mail fraud schemes.  

 

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