Federal Trade Commission
Partnerships for Consumer Education
Partnerships for Consumer Education
At the same time law enforcement efforts were trying to "sweep" fraudulent telemarketers out of business, the Commission launched the Partnership for Consumer Education, a cooperative effort among federal agencies, private industry, and consumer organizations to provide effective consumer education campaigns against fraud. As its contribution to the Partnership, the Commission developed a series of materials-- brochures, print public service announcements, statement stuffers, flyers, and bookmarks--to help consumers learn to distinguish legitimate telemarketing sales offers from fraudulent ones.
On the theory that combined efforts are the key to increasing awareness of telemarketing fraud, the Partnership prepared and disseminated millions of brochures and other materials describing the hallmarks of telemarketing scams. For example, as part of Operation Payback, the Newspaper Association of America encouraged its member papers to place consumer education messages about credit repair fraud in their classified advertising sections. In addition, the Associated Credit Bureaus, which represent the nation's credit reporting agencies, joined the Commission in the development and distribution of consumer education brochures on credit repair.
In conjunction with Project Loan Shark, the Free Paper Publisher, the trade magazine for the free and community paper industry, published two articles to help its members learn how to screen advertisements for potentially deceptive claims. National Marketplace Advertising, which places advertising in free and community classified newspapers in 900 U.S. cities, included a Commission public service message in the classified section of its publications. Many Thrifty Nickel newspapers also published news of the Loan Shark sweep.
As part of Operation CopyCat, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Professional Secretaries International, the National Association of Legal Secretaries, the Imaging Supplies Coalition, the Business Technology Association, and the Business Products Industries Association joined the Small Business Administration and the Commission in assuring the wide dissemination of consumer education materials on office supply scams and the TSR. In addition, Publishers Clearing House magnified the education effort spawned by Project Jackpot by developing education materials to distribute in its various prize promotion mailings and Sunday newspaper supplements.
A number of other FTC "partners" also have demonstrated their commitment to consumer education. For example:
- American Express put a public service message about credit repair services on three million Optima statements in November 1996;
- The Direct Marketing Association printed and distributed copies of "Complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule," to 3,000 of its members;
- Spiegel, the catalogue company, put telemarketing messages on order forms and customer statements, distributed information to members of the Merchants Retail Council, and included information on telemarketing sales fraud in its employee magazine;
- Reader's Digest developed brochures to be inserted into customer mailings about prize promotions and plans to place ads about sweepstakes fraud in an upcoming issue; and
- The American Advertising Federation--through member companies--helped design public service messages that newspapers across the country are running in their classifieds.
As part of Project $cholar$cam, the FTC developed a poster, bookmark, Consumer Alert, and flyer to educate students, parents, guidance counselors, and financial aid officers about scholarship scams that "guarantee"--for a fee--that the applicant will receive scholarship money. The FTC disseminated these materials through the 3,600-member stores of the National Association of College Stores and through the FTC's ConsumerLine web site. In addition, the FTC enlisted the help of six major education associations and the Interactive Services Association to promote the materials through professional journals, newsletters, and their on-line sites. The FTC also disseminated materials produced in cooperation with Sallie Mae to high school guidance counselors, teachers, and students.
The FTC began 1997 with a national grass-roots education campaign about telemarketing fraud. The materials can be found on the FTC's web site at www.ftc.gov/telemarketing.
Many FTC telemarketing consumer education pieces highlight the telephone number of the National Fraud Information Center, a project of the National Consumers League. As a result, the Telemarketing Complaint System has logged in many more telemarketing fraud complaints, insuring that the TCS will continue to be an effective tool in identifying targets and developing evidence.