In honor of my Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, my assistant Kay Coyte is writing for my newsletter and blog a series of consumer tips inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Margaret Danniher.
Knowledge is power, and consumer protection agencies across the country this week are hoping that a nationwide effort to raise awareness of scams, fraud and con artistry will give citizens some armor against these ripoffs. This week, the Federal Trade Commission, along with partners AARP and state attorneys general offices, is promoting National Consumer Protection Week. And today, Thursday, March 9, is Slam the Scam Day, brought to you by the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. (If you’re of retirement age, you may have seen an announcement in your email inbox.)
According to FTC statistics released in February, imposter cons are the most-reported scam, with 2022 losses of $2.6 billion in the United States, and Social Security or Medicare often are used as hooks into unwitting victims. That’s why these federal agencies are pushing to raise public awareness and enlisting fellow citizens to share their #SlamTheScam knowledge.
If you’re a Consumer Tip reader, you may be aware of some of these, but the Social Security folks remind us that their officials (along with those from the Internal Revenue Service, etc.) will never:
— threaten arrest or legal action against you unless you immediately send money.
— promise to increase your benefits or resolve a problem if you pay a fee or move your money into a protected account;
— require payment with gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfer, cryptocurrency or by mailing cash.
For more information about National Consumer Protection week, the FTC has a list of events and resources at https://consumer.ftc.gov/features/national-consumer-protection-week. For example, on March 9 is a 30-minute webinar on last year’s top frauds, with a focus on how they affect older adults, and how to protect people from scams. Click here for instructions on how to join in. An in-person Legal Advice Clinic will be held at the Cleveland Public Library (Jefferson Branch) on Saturday.
Despite public awareness campaigns, scammers still rake in a lot of money, often from those most vulnerable (I’m amazed at the amoral greed involved). And it’s not slowing. The FTC reported that citizens lost $8.8 billion to scams in 2022 — $2.6 billion more than in 2021.
So, help, please — Slam the Scam!