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KILLING THE CON
FBI Teams up with Senior Citizens to Fight Fraud

06/15/04

Photograph of two volunteers at the Financial Crimes Victim Call CenterQuestion: How do you keep senior citizens from being conned by illegal telemarketers?

One good answer: Put illegal telemarketers behind bars.

An equally good answer: Educate senior citizens on the tricks of the trade and how they can protect themselves from the con...through the good offices of totally credible teachers: other senior citizens.

That's just what our Los Angeles Office did when it established the Financial Crimes Victim Call Center (FCVCC).

In a partnership with AT&T Wireless, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), and WISE Senior Services, our L.A. Office set up this first-of-a-kind fraud prevention call center in 1998. It has two missions: First, to alert potential victims that they have been or will be targeted by con-artists. And second, to gather information about new and ongoing scams.

How does it work? Taking a page out of the telemarketers' playbook (or phonebook, in this case) the volunteers call people whose names are found on lists of potential victims seized during FBI raids of fraudulent telemarketing operations, or "boiler rooms."

Since the center began operating, senior volunteers -- trained about fraud by the L.A. Office and AARP -- have placed more than 120,000 fraud prevention phone calls. They use a one-page script with tips for potential victims, warning them not to send money or give personal or financial information to callers they don't personally know. They also itemize fraud warning signs, such as pressured solicitations to wire money or offers to have a courier service pick up a check or money order directly from their house.

Volunteers offer to send potential victims a fraud prevention kit, free of charge; provide them with the telephone number of their nearest FBI office; and encourage them to report suspected fraud.

Does it work? Yes! According to a study conducted for the Justice Department by AARP last year, "Off the Hook – Reducing Participation in Telemarketing Fraud," consumer education can lower a victim's willingness to respond to fraudulent pitches by up to 50%.

Now that's what we call partnering for results!

Link: White Collar Crime page