Congressman Scott Desjarlais office announced that they in conjunction with the offices of Sen. Alexander and Blackburn are hosting an FTC led “Stop Scams Workshop” on Wed. , July 17th at the Lane Agri-Park Community Center. We are asking our local representatives to help us promote this event to the benefit of our constituents as TN has the 10th highest per capita rate in US for consumer fraud. Tennessee’s total consumer losses topped $13.7 million in 2017 and logged over 60,000 complaints from TN.
It is about 3 hours: 30 minutes greeting & settling, 90-minute presentation & 30 minutes Q&A and gather information from various tables. The concept will include informational tables set-up with targeted information: student scams (invite local teachers & guidance counselors as most schools are now offering life skills classes) with info for juniors/seniors who will be obtaining car loans, student loans, housing etc.; immigration; senior citizens; mail/ID theft and the like which will have pamphlets and such as well as a table from our office: IF you have an issue we will have PRF & our cards to set-up an appointment to help resolve.
The IRS Taxpayer Advocate office and SSA will also be participating. We are waiting on confirmation from USCIS and the USPS. TN Consumer Affairs will also be on the panel.
Here is the format as suggested by the FTC’s liaison:
Great speaking with you today. As discussed, attached are video clips mentioning the FTC for its work in support of Members’ scam prevention workshops, and I’m excited to do something similar in your district to help your constituents stop scams before they start. Attached are a FTC versus Fraud Workbook for suggested handouts, and a model flyer from a recent Member event.
For more on replicating these efforts, here are some ideas about how the FTC can help Members’ staff plan a scam and identity theft prevention workshop. We are working to send an FTC speaker who could cover fraud trends and promote tips to help your constituents spot, stop and report scams, and assist them in developing a force field to fraud. There also are other ways that the FTC can support your outreach and constituent assistance efforts. I’d be happy to arrange a time to talk you and your colleagues through what follows here.
A STOP SCAMS WORKSHOP OVERVIEW: From a big picture perspective, an FTC speaker could cover top complaints we received for 2018, noting how people reported a total loss of $1.48 billion (with a ‘b’!) to fraud last year – an increase of 38% over 2017. Of the 3 million reports of fraud we received last year, imposter scams were number one (535,417 imposter scam reports); and romance scams drew the highest losses with victims reporting having wasted $143 million where there was no love to be found. After grabbing attendees’ attention with these stunning stats, we’d hammer home some anti-fraud advice, including this catch-all rule against imposters: If you didn’t initiate the contact and they are asking you for money or your personal information, it’s a scam… period, hang up, no fraud victims to be had here!
Another alarming trend, scammers are demanding payment via gift cards more than ever before – a whopping 270 percent increase since 2015. Hosting a workshop could go a long way toward helping people recognize things like, Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments, and avoid wiring money (where consumers reported $423 million lost last year) to someone you don’t know or completely trust. The IRS does not take iTunes payments. Whatever the offer, we’d encourage them to leave absolutely no doubt, check everything out, stressing how the FTC helplines are a great place to start.
IDENTITY THEFT certainly is an attention grabber these days, especially when you consider that the Justice Department released a report indicating that there were 26 million victims – that’s one in 10 people over age 16 – and $17.5 billion in financial losses in 2016 (the year they studied) due to ID theft. The FTC comes into play here as the go to for ID theft victim assistance at IdentityTheft.gov, which provides specific recovery steps for more than 30 types of ID theft.
Moreover, everyone would do well to expect that some aspect of their personal information has been compromised with national data breaches in news reports every few weeks. For help with that, the FTC has this website at IdentityTheft.gov/databreach providing detailed advice based on the type of information exposed; and, if the breached company offers you free credit monitoring, take advantage of it. We also have practical advice about protecting your personal information, the importance of getting your free credit reports, and how free credit report freezes to help control who accesses your report. We’d also discuss new protections available for minors under 16.
SUGGESTED FORMAT PANELISTS: As for event format, we’d suggest classroom style environment with speakers playing off each other’s remarks, and welcoming participants’ questions early on (we want to talk about what the audience, wants to hear about). State consumer protection agencies and perhaps Postal Inspectors from your area make good panelists, and I might be able to help you with contacts there. An hour-and-a-half for the event; time usually goes by pretty quickly and it’s jam-packed with information attendees have found quite useful. FTC will provide handouts as well.
SUGGESTED AGENDA OUTLINE: Here’s a menu of topics and related fraud prevention advice:
- Member’s welcome and introductory remarks
- FTC broad overview, top tip on how to recognize, ward off, and/or recover from all types of fraud (FTC hotlines/website); before spending money, leave absolutely no doubt, check everything out; finding trusted sources = start with government information, including the FTC as an avenue to real help;
- Identity theft and the importance of protecting personal information; advice for victims;
- Credit reports, including fraud alerts and freezes, free annual reports, scores;
- Financial issues with a focus on loans and lending; credit card issues; mortgages payments, foreclosure assistance and rescue scams, school loans, grants, contractors, etc. (HUD approved counselors are trusted sources to consider inviting to an event);
- Medicare/medical discount fraud (might want to see if we can get a Senior Medicare Patrol rep to attend)
- Safe computing, including online security, promoting responsible digital behavior, and how to encourage healthy cyber habits for kids.