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Washington

Fraud Fighters Help Older People Guard Assets

Volunteers expose scammers' tricks

Since the beginning of the year, the FTC has asked some fraud victims if they are willing to be contacted by a volunteer organization. They ask people who are 60 or older, have lost money and have been the target of certain scams — prize promotion, sweepstakes, lottery and impersonation.

Their names and contact information are then given to the Fraud Fighter program. Volunteers such as Stern call, hoping to end the cycle of fraud victimization.

The FBI warns that con artists target older people because they are likely to have a nest egg and own a home; were generally raised to be polite and trusting, traits scammers exploit; and are less likely to report a fraud because they don't know whom to tell and are ashamed at having been conned.

Program expands

In addition to working with fraud victims referred by the FTC, the Fraud Fighter team has taken on additional anti-scam projects this year:

A grant from the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) underwrites a project to call people who will soon enroll in Medicare. Fraud Fighters brief them on how to spot Medicare fraud and pass on information about the OIC agency that can assist people in understanding Medicare.

A grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Investor Education Foundation underwrites a program to call people who fit the profile of those who are likely to be victims of investor fraud. In addition, the program expands the Fraud Fighters' speakers bureau for presentations about all types of fraud.

Fifty volunteers are regulars in the Fraud Fighter Call Center, said program director Jean Mathisen. Some put in three hours a week; others work for 20.

The aim of the various Fraud Fighter programs, said Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director, is "to inoculate people so they won't fall for it, or fall for it again."

To volunteer, to arrange for a Fraud Fighter speaker for an organization or group, or to request information about scams and schemes, call 1-800-646-2283 toll-free or email jmathisen@aarp.org.

Also of interest: Consumer Protection Bureau fights for you.

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