FTC Asks Older Americans to Help Spot Fraud

The Federal Trade Commission has created a new campaign to tap into the experiences of older adults to help others avoid being victims of fraud.

yellow diamond warning sign saying scam alert

“A lot of times in the media, [older] people are depicted as things happening to them; they are victims. We don’t actually agree,” says Jennifer Leach, a consumer education specialist at the FTC.

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“Most people age 60, 65 and older are doing great,” she says. “They are experienced people who have great expertise in all parts of life, and they should be looked at as a resource.”

That’s what the FTC is trying to do with its Pass It On program. The agency wants older consumers who are aware of common scams to share that information with friends, relatives and neighbors. The agency also provides free materials about identity theft, health care scams, charity fraud and other schemes, as well as information on how to start a conversation about fraud protection. And, for the more ambitious, the FTC provides a PowerPoint presentation on fraud, so people can address larger groups.

In addition, AARP’s  Fraud Watch Network has information on the latest scams and how to protect yourself.

“What we are hoping is that people will just talk about it,” the FTC’s Leach says. And sharing can help.

Leach, for instance, was speaking to a group at a Maryland retirement community recently when the discussion turned to a phone call people had received from someone claiming to work for Microsoft and wanting to fix their computer.

This is a common scam, Leach says, in which a con artist tries to gain access to your computer and personal information or place charges on your credit card.

Residents of the retirement community were unaware that their neighbors were receiving the same phone call, Leach says. Once the call was mentioned, though, people talked about how they dealt with the impostor. Some immediately hung up; others collected information from the caller to hand over to authorities. Yet some, unaware of the scam, fell for it, Leach notes.

The victims said if they had learned about the scam earlier through conversations with fellow residents, they would have known how to handle the situation, she says.

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In the weeks leading up to the kickoff of Pass It On, the FTC sent out 3,000 mailings about the program to groups working with older consumers. So far, the agency has had requests for 300,000 fraud-information materials, Leach says.

To get the same free information for yourself or to pass on to others, call the FTC’s consumer response center at 877-382-4357 toll-free or place your order online.

Photo: Amanalang/Istock

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