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National Consumer Protection Week

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March 1st, 2016
Scam alert logo
Scam alert logo

Green predominates in the month of March. There is St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of spring. It’s also a time to focus on protecting your green—as in your hard-earned cash. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has designated March 6-12, 2016, as National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). Its purpose is to highlight the many ways scammers and con artists try to get your money. 

Federal, state, and local agencies, along with a number of consumer advocacy groups, will be working hard to increase awareness of all sorts of scams—from identity theft and data breaches to phony emails and phone solicitations. There is a website associated with the effort (NCPW.gov) that provides a bounty of great information. 

On the website, you will find the “Consumer Guide for Seniors,” published by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office; an article by the Consumer Federation of America on how to avoid identity theft; and the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection’s advice on protecting yourself from home improvement transients. 

“Organizations committed to consumer protection are energized for National Consumer Protection Week, and the FTC is proud to work with our partners to fight scams in every community,” says Jessica Rich, director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We can all help stop scams by checking out the advice at NCPW.gov, sharing it, and reporting fraud.”

Arm yourself with knowledge

The best protection from being scammed is knowledge. Knowing how scammers operate goes a long way in helping you keep your guard up. As we have seen time and time again in this column, once a scammer has your money, the likelihood of getting it back is slim to none. 

I encourage you to visit the NCPW website. Browse through the topics and learn all you can about the ways unscrupulous scammers try to get your money and/or information. But don’t stop there. Talk about what you’ve learned. 

The FTC also has a comprehensive program called “Pass It On” (http://goo.gl/MGQ7jB) that encourages people to open up and discuss scams with friends and family. Start a conversation: “Have you been getting a lot of robo calls lately?” or “I just read about a scam where someone calls saying he’s from the IRS.” The more people know and hear about scams, the better off everyone will be. 

If you are involved with a community group, attend a senior center, or even participate in a book club, consider devoting a meeting to the topic of scams. You can order materials from the websites mentioned above to help supplement the discussion. For example, on the Pass It On site, you can order articles and even bookmarks covering a wide array of scams—from charity scams to health care scams. 

If you would like to report a scam, contact the FTC. Complaints from consumers help them detect patterns of fraud and abuse. The FTC cannot resolve individual complaints, but they can provide information about what next steps to take. The FTC would like to know about your complaint, and their online Complaint Assistant will help guide you (ftccomplaintassistant.gov). You can also call them at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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