USPS, FTC Sponsor Senior Citizen Fraud Awareness Campaign

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National Fraud Against Senior Citizens Awareness Week began yesterday to inform senior citizens, their families and caregivers that older Americans are increasingly the targets of con artists.


"Fraud complaints are on the rise, and more and more people age 60 and over are becoming victims," said Lee Heath, chief postal inspector.


Postmaster general John E. Potter, Federal Trade Commission chairman Timothy J. Muris and other officials will announce National Fraud Against Senior Citizens Awareness Week today at a news conference in Washington.


Betty White, who will be featured in public service announcements during the week, also will participate in the news conference via satellite from Los Angeles. Representatives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will attend because much telemarketing fraud originates in Canada.


Besides the PSAs, the nationwide campaign will involve posters in 38,000 post office lobbies, half-page newspaper ads in selected metropolitan markets and mailings to 3 million households of seniors and their families.


Mail fraud complaints are up 27 percent, according to the Postal Inspection Service. The agency responded to 66,000 such complaints in 2001, but postal inspectors this year already have responded to more than 68,000.


"The Inspection Service has shut down 40 illegal telemarketing operations so far this year, a 43 percent increase over last year," Heath said. "We have also stopped 80 deceptive mailing operations, up 40 percent from last year."


According to the Alliance Against Fraud in Telemarketing and Electronic Commerce, people 60 and older accounted for 26 percent of telemarketing fraud victims. However, this group showed higher representation in certain categories, such as prizes and sweepstakes, where they account for 60 percent of the victims.


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