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Consumer Fraud Task Force Warns: 'If it is Too Good to be True; It Probably Is'

Next week, March 3rd through the 9th is Consumer Fraud Awareness Week. The focus of is to educate and inform consumers how to better protect themselves from becoming victims of fraud. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has more.

Consumer fraud is not a new problem. However, with increases in technology and the ever-growing internet, there are always new ways to defraud unsuspecting consumers. Representatives from Legal Services of Southern Missouri (LSSM), the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Credit Counseling, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri Attorney General, U.S. Postal Inspector, FBI, Springfield Police Department and the Federal Trade Commission have formed an alliance to take action to fight fraud and educate consumers.

Summer Masterson is an attorney with LSSM and says her caseload involving fraud averages 40-50 cases each year, although she adds that’s a conservative figure.

“Probably the most common type of fraud seen that our office sees are abuses by debt collectors. We have a lot of senior citizens and low income families who are harassed by debt collectors, often times on debts they don’t owe, or debts that a family member or neighbor owes,” Masterson says.

Masterson says other common types of fraud includes predatory lenders such as title loan or payday loan companies, door-to-door solicitation, home repair and auto fraud. She says the most important thing for consumers is that they do their homework. Masterson adds the elderly are especially vulnerable due to ever-changing advances in technology and because they are often more trusting.

“Generally, if consumers would empower themselves to follow through. Our best piece of advice that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So, if consumers get an email, a phone call, or someone at their door alleging that the owe money for something, they should do a little background investigation on who this person is. I think a lot of fraud could be prevented if we just had a healthy amount of skepticism,” says Masterson.

You can find a link to more information below. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.

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