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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2010
(originally released by Ohio Department of Insurance)
COLUMBUS - The easiest weapon people can use to protect themselves from fraud is to recognize it when they see it - before their money lines somebody else's pocket.
The State of Ohio today launched a new Take Action: Protect Yourself from Fraud initiative that educates consumers about insurance fraud and financial exploitation, said Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson.
"There are growing trends in insurance and annuities fraud especially targeted at older people," Director Hudson said. "This initiative is a proactive step to arm all Ohioans with knowledge to help them avoid financial exploitation. It also serves as a resource so people know where to turn to report fraud across the state. Together, we can arm consumers with information to help them protect themselves and garner the information we need to track down the perpetrators."
Take Action initially will focus on alerting consumers to types of deceptive sales practices and schemes currently occurring in annuities, living trusts, stranger-originated life insurance (STOLI), reverse mortgages, Medicare sales and health care fraud. Take Action also assists Ohioans in safeguarding their online information and warding off unwanted telemarketers and spammers. The Ohio Department of Aging assisted in creating Take Action resources and plays a key role in the outreach to older Ohioans.
"During Older Americans Month, we encourage all older Ohioans to age strong." Ohio Department of Aging Director Barbara Riley said. "When it comes to consumer issues, this means being your own advocate. Know what you want, what to look out for and where to turn for help, should you need it. This initiative aims to give all Ohioans tools and habits they can use to be wise consumers and help stop consumer fraud for everyone."
A free consumer guide provides background facts on areas where people are exploited and serves as a workbook listing important questions to ask. The guide is available at www.takeaction.ohio.gov, an interactive Web site filled with tips on how to recognize, avoid and report fraud. Consumer stories about fraud and successful encounters overcoming it will be published on the Web site.
The Web site also directs consumers to the right offices and agencies within Ohio's state government. For instance, anyone making an investment decision needs to contact the Ohio Department of Commerce to ensure the broker is legitimate and the security is registered.
"Taking action to protect yourself from financial fraud means keeping your hard-earned money where it belongs -working for you," Ohio Department of Commerce Director Kimberly Zurz said. "Before making an investment or financial decision, call the Division of Securities at 1-877-N-VEST-411 to investigate any opportunities and avoid potential pitfalls."
In addition, senior groups and associations can request a speaker for a workshop or ask for a panel of government experts to talk about fraud. Representatives from the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Ohio Department of Aging, the Ohio Department of Commerce, the Office of Attorney General Richard Cordray, the Office of State Treasurer Kevin Boyce and the Ohio Consumers' Counsel will participate on panels.
"We are exploring ways to reach out to consumers by collaborating with other state offices, agencies and organizations," Director Hudson said. "We are all concerned about consumer protection, and this effort shows efficiency and effectiveness in government."
Seniors and their caregivers will be the target of the awareness campaign because statistics show that seniors attract 30 percent of reported fraud and are three times more likely to become fraud victims. The boomer generation will reach 71 million over the next several decades - a huge population ripe for financial exploitation.
Director Hudson emphasized that while most insurance agents are reliable and trustworthy, the small percentage who are not can have their insurance licenses revoked by the Ohio Department of Insurance. In addition, anyone posing as an agent can also face criminal or civil charges. Ohioans are also warned to watch for identity thieves, telemarketing scammers, online spammers and anyone offering deals that seem too good to be true.
Ohioans can visit www.takeaction.ohio.gov to read or order copies of the Take Action: Protect Yourself From Fraud consumer guide, stay informed on the latest fraud news and alerts, get their personal fraud stories published and e-mail the program coordinator, Dottie Howe, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers with specific insurance questions and complaints can call the Ohio Department of Insurance consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526.
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