[EDITORIAL NOTE: The new, non-election campaign Issues post begins on Sunday. You can find out more about it here. So if you have blog stories from this week to submit for the list, be sure to email links to me by end of today, Friday.]
A few days ago, Alexandra Grabbe of Wellfleet ChezSven blog, who I visited in Wellfleet, Massachusetts a few weeks ago, emailed about a telephone fraud she ran into and I was reminded that we’ve never discussed this topic at Time Goes By although it comes to mind from time to time.
From nothing more that ageist thinking along with regularly-occurring news stories like this one about a woman who succumbed to the Nigerian scam to the tune of $400,000, there is a general consensus that elders are more susceptible (too stupid to know better) than younger people to fraud. So when I followed up in a telephone conversation with Nat Wood, the assistant director of business and consumer education at the Bureau of Consumer Protection within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), I was delighted to learn the following:
“In all cases, consumers 65 years of age or older were less likely to have experienced each of the frauds than were younger consumers…Prize promotion fraud and fraudulent buyers’ club billing were the frauds seniors most frequently reported experiencing. However, only 1.0 percent of seniors reported experiencing each of these frauds…
“Seniors were much less likely than younger consumers to report purchasing a fraudulent weight-loss product. Less than 1 percent of those 65 and over reported having made such purchases, significantly lower than the approximately 2.5 percent rate for those between 18 and 34 and those between 35 and 64.”
- - FTC Report on Consumer Fraud in the United States, October 2007 [pdf]
Although it is the birthright of every American to bitch about the government, and we’ve had many reasons during the Bush II administration to do so, what is often forgotten is that within various agencies of government, many good non-politicians are putting some of our tax dollars to excellent use producing research, studies and hard information that can help improve our lives. The FTC is one of them.
We elders may be up a rung or two over younger people in terms of fraud recognition, but we don’t know it all and scammers are slick. The FTC website is a resource you should know about.
In the Who’s Calling? section, there are explanations of how phone frauds work. From credit and travel scams to charity fraud, medical discount plans and more, there’s all you need to know to recognize phone fraud for what it is. You can also sign up for the Do Not Call Registry and if you get a call that you recognize as fraudulent, there is an easy Complaint Assistant form with which to report it to the FTC.
At The FTC’s Onguard Online website, the agency has broken down internet safety into 16 topics. While some will get you up to speed on email scams, internet auctions, malware, investing, shopping, etc. Nat tells me that phishing is the most important.
If you don’t know the word, phishing is a scam, as the site explains, “where internet fraudsters send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal and financial information.” The information on how to protect yourself is clear, easy to understand and there are also several links to easily report phishing scams you run into to the FTC and other organizations that track this kind of fraud.
Bogus Cancer Cures
At the Cure-ious site, the FTC covers cancer cure scams - how to recognize them together with a list of products and treatments the FTC has found to be fraudulent. There is also a list of organizations that are good starting points for research into cancer treatments and, like the other FTC fraud sites, you can also easily report cancer cure fraud.
The FTC maintains its own YouTube channel of videos that cover phishing, identity theft at home, work and shopping - and this one on telemarketing fraud [3:08 minutes].
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Old Woman gives us the final installment of Falling Apart Together - Part 2.]