FTC Debuts Games to Help Consumers Spot Scams

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The Federal Trade Commission has unveiled three online games to educate consumers about the various ways they can be defrauded. The games coincide with National Consumer Protection Week, Feb. 5-11.

Interactive games cut through the clutter and provide alternative ways to impart information, said Carol Kando-Pineda, FTC staff attorney. An informed consumer is more likely to avoid a scam, she said, and it's better for consumers to stay clear of a scheme than to try to get their money back after they've been duped.

The games -- "Welcome to Bargainville," "Fact or Fiction" and "Spot That Scam" -- cover topics including identity theft, the do-not-call registry, phishing, spam and common scams like weight-loss offers, foreign lotteries and college scholarships. Dubbed the "Grand Scam Challenge," they can be played at www.consumer.gov/ncpw.

Nearly 25 million Americans, or 11.2 percent of the adult population, are victims of fraud each year, the FTC said. Identity theft is the most common type, making up 37 percent of all complaints.

Educational games have been used successfully on the Onguard Online Web site, which is supported by the FTC and other government agencies to teach consumers about the risks of online scams and identity theft. "Identity Theft Face Off," which launched Jan. 6, has had 16,000 hits, making it the second most popular area on Onguard's site, Kando-Pineda said.

Partner organizations have found these types of games useful in fraud education. Boeing is using the Onguard Online materials and interactive content to train 60,000 employees in consumer fraud education programs.

The FTC said the "Grand Scam Challenge" will be made available on CD-ROM and in a print version to ensure it's accessible to all community organizations.

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