Hispanic Law Enforcement and Outreach Forum Held Today in Cleveland
The Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Ohio hosted a workshop in Cleveland today to continue a nationwide campaign to find more ways to fight fraud aimed at Spanish-speakers. The Hispanic Law Enforcement and Outreach Forum brought law enforcement, government, and community groups together to promote education and awareness of scams and to develop effective law enforcement responses. The FTC also announced a new quiz about spam for the Alerta en Línea Web site, which teaches consumers (in Spanish) about online safety, as well as a new partnership with Cuyahoga Community College.
“Scams in any language mean the same thing – a ripoff for consumers,” said John Mendenhall, Director of the FTC’s East Central Region. “These workshops play an important role by bringing local law enforcement and community leaders together to find the best ways to fight fraud in this community.”
The workshop is one in a series being held across the country by the FTC and USPIS. The workshops aim to identify local problems and discuss ways to address them; facilitate open dialogue with local government, consumer groups, and members of the Hispanic community on issues affecting Hispanic consumers; and share consumer education resources to help local communities conduct outreach about fraud and how to report it. Previous workshops were held in Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Workshops are planned for later this year in San Diego, Las Vegas, and New York City.
The workshops are part of an ongoing and comprehensive campaign by the FTC to identify and halt fraud targeting Spanish-speaking consumers – the Hispanic Law Enforcement and Outreach Initiative. The campaign involves: 1) active monitoring of Spanish-language media and complaints received in Spanish; 2) aggressive law enforcement actions against marketers defrauding Hispanic consumers; and 3) extensive outreach to Hispanic consumers to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place and to encourage greater reporting of consumer fraud.
Since the FTC formally introduced its Hispanic Law Enforcement and Outreach Initiative in April 2004, the Commission has announced 32 cases against a variety of frauds targeting Hispanics, including:
- frauds targeting immigrants, such as fake international driver’s permits, bogus English-language courses, and green card lotteries;
- financial frauds, such as advance-fee loan credit cards and credit repair;
- employment-related frauds, such as work-at-home and business opportunity scams; and
- health fraud, including bogus weight-loss supplements and “miracle” health cures.
In addition to the national Hispanic workshop held in May 2004, and the follow-up regional workshops throughout the country, the FTC has translated more than 100 publications into Spanish and posted them on its Spanish-language Web site: www.ftc.gov/espanol. The Web site was accessed about 900,000 times last year, an increase of 150 percent over 2004.
The FTC today announced a new quiz for the AlertaenLinea.gov Web site. Alerta en Línea is a Spanish-language consumer education campaign to help consumers stay safe online. The campaign is part of a broad initiative developed by the FTC, other federal agencies, the technology industry, online marketers, and consumer advocates. The quiz tests consumers knowledge on what they should do about spam, and is available at http://alertaenlinea.gov/quiz/spam_quiz_es.html.
Also, the FTC today announced a new collaboration with Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland to teach students about credit, through which the school will provide 10,000 copies of “Getting Credit” to students in both English and Spanish. The publication explains how to build and maintain good credit. The Hispanic Council of Cuyahoga Community College also will distribute “Getting Credit” and Alerta en Línea brochures at its April 7 conference for high school seniors titled “Career Exploration with workshops on Financial Aid, Budgeting for College and Survival Skills.”
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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