Attorney general, trade commission launch ‘Pass It On’ to protect consumers

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AG’s Corner
By Peter F. Kilmartin

It focuses on the ability of seniors to be part of the solution instead of implying they’re part of the problem when it comes to scams.

March 6 to 12 is National Consumer Protection Week, and this year’s theme is “Pass It On.”

Chances are good that someone you know has been scammed. They may not talk about it, but the statistics do: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that millions of people fall victim to scams every year.

The truth is that sharing what you know can help protect someone who you know from a scam.

People listen to you because they trust you. You’re a friend, a neighbor and a relative.

That’s why we are joining forces with the FTC in a new campaign designed to enlist people over 65 in the effort to recognize and report frauds and scams, and to “Pass It On.”

“Pass It On” reinforces what older people already know about some of today’s most common scams, and it gives them a short and straightforward way to share that knowledge with their family members, friends and communities. It focuses on the ability of seniors to be part of the solution instead of implying they’re part of the problem when it comes to scams.

Fraudsters generally target consumers of all ages, but they know that older people are likely to have bigger nest eggs and are more trusting, which makes them attractive to scam artists. And, the FTC says, when older people lose money to a scam — regardless of whether it involves prizes and lotteries, imposters or identity theft — it’s usually more difficult for them to recoup their losses, making the consequences even more devastating.

Enlisting our knowledgeable seniors is part of a fresh approach we are taking to promoting fraud awareness.

People 65 and older have lots of life experience that enables them to recognize and avoid scams. They also have a social network with which to share the life lessons they’ve learned. The campaign seeks to tap into their life experiences and their trusted place in the community.

Older consumers are telling us they don’t want to be labeled as vulnerable victims. They want to pass on what they know about scams — not only to their peers, but to younger generations as well.

So, what do you need to do? It’s simple. If you receive a scam email or phone call, pass that information on to your friends, relatives and neighbors. Tell them to be on the lookout for such scams, and give them a few tips on how to identify it as a scam and what steps they need to make to make sure they don’t fall for it.

Don’t forget to “Pass It On” to our office, too. We rely on you to alert us of scams in the area so that we can, in turn, “Pass It On” to others so they know what to look for and can help prevent others from falling victim to the scam.

You can report scams to our Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 277-4400 or by emailing consumers@riag.ri.gov.

We here at the attorney general’s office are doing our part to “Pass It On.”  We want to pass on all that we know about scams, identity theft and other consumer issues to you and your friends.  As many scams originate outside of the United States, we have found that often the most effective defense against such fraud is a well-informed consumer.

It is in that vein that our office has instituted a senior outreach program to inform Rhode Island residents about deceptive practices. I encourage you to invite the good folks from our Consumer Protection Unit to your senior center or housing complex to educate you and your friends.

In addition to contacting the unit, you can learn more at www.riag.ri.gov. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @AGKilmartin for consumer tips to pass on through March.

Peter F. Kilmartin is attorney general of Rhode Island. Submit questions and comments to akempe@riag.ri.gov.

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