The Federal Trade Commission in the last 13 months has continued to work hand-in-hand with other state and federal law enforcers, participating with them in a variety of enforcement “sweeps” and task forces, individual fraud and deceptive advertising cases, efforts to boost industry compliance with pre-purchase disclosure rules, and consumer education and law-enforcement training programs. A report released by the FTC today cites dozens of programs, cases and issues on which federal and state law enforcers have worked together over the last year, including in the areas of telemarketing fraud, credit repair scams, rules governing the sales of funeral services, franchises, and mail order merchandise.
“At the federal level, we can put the national spotlight on the hottest scams and the most egregious forms of deceptive marketing,” said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But it’s the state and local consumer agencies that engage in the day-to-day battle against fraud and deception and, therefore, they often are the first to call our attention to new trends. As technology gives consumers more, and more convenient, access to goods, services and information, it also gives scam artists new ways of taking their money. All this at a time when resources to fight fraud are shrinking. Clearly, cooperation among federal and state agencies is more essential than ever.”
“Fraud does not recognize state and federal boundaries,” said Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, chairman of the National Association of Attorneys General-FTC Working Group. “The FTC and the states have joined forces to present a united front in the fight against consumer fraud. By sharing information and resources, and coordinating investigations and prosecutions, the FTC and the states have begun a serious effort to put an end to the national epidemic of telemarketing scams and health care fraud.”
The FTC report highlights coast-to-coast enforcement efforts against fraudulent telemarketers hawking business opportunities, high-tech investments, and any number of other products or services, many times targeting their pitches toward older Americans. Other enforcement efforts discussed in the report include programs to combat credit repair fraud, unsubstantiated health or environmental benefit claims, auto repair incompetence, and “miracle” diet products. The FTC has worked with numerous states on enforcement efforts, but also on training law enforcers and educating consumers, for example, in the areas of pre-purchase disclosure requirements for a myriad of products and services, and regarding policing fraud on the Internet.
Several of the cooperative projects cited in the report involve joint enforcement “sweeps,” where law enforcers in numerous jurisdictions bring a large number of actions targeting a particular problem all at the same time. One benefit of this approach is that it focuses consumers on how the scheme works and what con artists are likely to be saying in order to sell their products or services. “Both the consumer beware message and the warning to would-be fraud artists are a major benefit of these efforts,” Bernstein said.
Copies of the report, titled “The Power of Partnerships: FTC-State Cooperative Efforts,” are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580: 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it happens, call the FTC’s NewsPhone at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other documents also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web Site at http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Matter No. P944207)