Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Consumer Fraud Program, AKA Fraud Fair #1

Kathleen Sayce, October 11, 2016

When I worked for ShoreBank Pacific, I had to take annual classes in fraud prevention and awareness.  I learned that frauds are endlessly creative in coming up with new ways to part people from their money illegally. So when Teresa Glidden, WA OSOS, Consumer Protection Services, offered the state’s multi-office and departmental program in Consumer Fraud Protection, AKA the Fraud Fair, the Foundation said ‘Yes.’

Our first Fraud Fair was on October 10th on a lovely sunny fall afternoon. Twenty five people put aside the holiday to attend, including me, and it was worth every minute.

Six speakers from four offices and departments did four presentations on various aspects of consumer fraud. Topics include: 
  • several flavors of charity fraud, 
  • identity theft and its consequences (www.identitytheft.gov), 
  • how to talk to phone solicitors, opting out of pre-screened offers and sales offers (optoutprescreen.com and donotcall.gov), 
  • investment frauds with an emphasis on senior safe programs and elder abuse programs, and 
  • utility and transportation fraud. 

Those attending received magnetized lists of questions to ask telemarketers, helpful phone numbers for several state offices, including Office of Secretary of State Charities Division, State Attorney General Consumer Protection, Department of Financial Institutions Consumer Services, and Utilities and Transportation Commission Fraud Prevention. All of these agencies have online services for more education on frauds and fraud prevention. 

There were short video training sessions on how to deal with tele-marketers:  
ask for their names, the name of their firm, the name of the charity they are calling for, if they are registered in the state, how much of the money that is donated goes to the charity—I have the magnetized list now for easy reference. 

The presenters know the current phone scams going around:  police, sheriff and firemen’s charities, IRS scams, Microsoft scams, the stranded/arrested grandchildren scams. Missing bank card scams. And there are mail scams, Facebook scams, email scams. Funding for areas hit by natural disasters often appear overnight on Facebook, for example. Those communities never see a penny of that money. How much do scammers make? Around $3 billion per year. 

If you have money invested in stocks and bonds, there are other scams to watch for:  unregistered brokers. Unregistered stocks and bonds. The Nigerian Prince. The deal too good to pass up. Licensed financial services people are registered with the state. You can check this online or by calling DPI (877-746-4334) or www.dfi.wa.gov. 

Bottom line on scams:  Trust, but verify the sources independently first. Ask questions. If you are scammed or suspect a scam, tell people (friends, family, local professionals), tell these state offices and agencies. Only one in every 44 people who is scammed ever says anything. Don’t let the con artists talk you into keeping silent. You can always say no, hang up, and block that calling number. 

The Foundation is going to offer this training again next year. If you would like to be notified when this is scheduled, please send your name and email address to info@spccf.org. We will add you to our email list. As a public charity and a nonprofit corporation, SPCCF is registered with the Washington Office of Secretary of State. We know you can find us on the state’s registry!