If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! The old adage is never more accurate than when fraud collides with disaster and calamity. To a fraudster, natural disasters and human catastrophes are merely potential new scamming opportunities. So, while the rest of the world slowed to a crawl last year, not so the schemers. They simply adjusted to an uncertain populace suddenly trapped inside, living online, and socially cut-off. And they prospered. Some of the most prevalent schemes in 2020 included "COVID" cure, treatment and money scams, online shopping schemes, romance/friendship fraud and, of course, Identity Theft.
Guardians of the Consumer: The FTC and State and Local Agencies
But even in the middle of a pandemic there's HOPE! I've sung the praises of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) before in previous blogs (here, here, and here) regarding their work in helping the public deter, detect and defend against fraud. But they aren't the only ones.
State and local, agencies also strive hard to help victims and deserve a shout-out. For example, I frequently worked with the Consumer Protection Division under the State of Ohio's Attorney General's Office (OAG-CPD). Those folks are dedicated to helping victimized Ohio residents. In another example, the Cuyahoga County Office of Consumer Affairs , based in Cleveland, Ohio, has organized its own interagency Scam Squad to deal with local fraud. Great news!
There's probably a similar Department or Office of Consumer Protection wherever you live. Just check with your local version of a State Attorney General's Office or do an internet search for "Consumer Protection in (your state or county or province or locality)" . If you don't find one, no worries. Fraud is fraud no matter where it happens, so the FTC's information and the other links provided in this blog should still be helpful and practical. Fraudsters may "localize" their schemes to fit the area where they commit their crimes, but the fundamentals for deterring, detecting, and defending against these scoundrels are the same!
National Consumer Protection Week 2021: February 28th -March 6th
To help folks detect and defend against scams and scoundrels, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sponsors an annual public awareness campaign called National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) in coordination with state and local consumer protection agencies. Despite the pandemic, the 17th annual NCPW is going full steam ahead, running from February 28th-March 6th. Here are some NCPW Online events and see below for some of the areas that will be a focus this year.
Zoomed Out, Totally Missed NCPW
Yeah. I get it. Video conferencing has gotten just a wee bit out of hand. But look, if you miss NCPW, just go to the FTC's website. They have resources on just about every scam out there. Also, you can order FREE brochures and pamphlets on a variety of areas to keep or hand out to others. And don't forget about getting your FREE Annual Credit Report (if eligible). They even have a video for you about getting one. Checking your credit report regularly is great advice no matter where you live!
Have a great NCPW and stay safe out there!
The Inevitable Disclaimer: Although I think the FTC and other consumer protection agencies are amazing and I completely support their "defeat fraud" missions, this blog has no official connection to any of the agencies mentioned herein. Further, while I use images and links from the FTC website (and others) for illustration and public service purposes, this blog is my own and is in no way sponsored by any of those agencies mentioned.