The Whistleblower blog was started in 2008. Look for posts by these contributors: James Eli Shiffer, Jane Friedmann, Brandon Stahl, Eric Roper and Alejandra Matos. | Check out the Whistleblower archive.
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An international sweepstakes scam that has already cost consumers, mostly seniors, $11 million is the Federal Trade Commission's latest target in stopping these kinds of swindles.
On Sept. 16, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Ventura, Calif., resident Liam O. Moran and his companies for sending out personalized letters to millions of consumers claiming they had won more than $2 million in sweepstakes money.
The letter then states the recipients have to send a $20 to $30 fee. The fine print on the back of the letter does tell consumers in "dense, confusing language" that they have not won anything and the fee is to provide consumers with a list of available sweepstakes, according to the FTC.
"The defendants have sent more than 3.7 million letters during the past two years, including nearly 800,000 letters to people in 156 countries in the first half of 2013," the FTC said in a news release Monday. "They have collected more than $11 million from consumers since 2009. The vast majority of the victims of this scam appear to be over 65."
Read the full complaint here.
The Federal Trade Commission filed charges against operators of a telemarketing scheme aimed at defrauding seniors by offering phony prescription drug discount cards last week.
In the complaint, the FTC alleges that seniors across the United States were deceived into turning over their bank account numbers and used that information to take money from their accounts.
The operators, based in the United States and Canada, claimed they would send consumers a prescription drug discount card for a fee. The cards provided were already provided to senior for free by calling a toll-free number, the FTC said Monday in a news release.
The telemarketing scheme is another in a slew of scams targeting seniors. On Sunday, I wrote about scammers who are taking advantage of the confusion swirling around the Affordable Care Act. The majority of the people I spoke to for that story were seniors who had received a call from someone claiming they needed to send a new Medicare card.
The operators who are named in the complaint that are based in the United States include:
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota said consumers across the nation are receiving scam phone calls telling them that because of the Affordable Care Act, they need to provide personal or financial information to receive health coverage or to keep the coverage they currently have.
Star Tribune reporter Jackie Crosby wrote about the agency's warning last week. The BBB of Minnesota told Crosby they didn’t know of any specific scams targeted at Minnesotans.
Some of you have reported to Whistleblower that swindlers posing as Medicare representatives have called seeking personal information, including bank account numbers, that they need before sending out a replacement insurance card.
Whistleblower wants to know if you have received any calls from people who claim they need your personal or financial information for health care coverage. Call reporter Alejandra Matos at 612.673.4028 or send her an e-mail to email@example.com.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants Attorney General Eric Holder to crack down on robocall swindlers and other criminals engaging in mass-marketing scams, especially those targeting seniors.
In a letter Thursday, Klobuchar asked Holder to look for “ways to improve the coordination of resources to bring more criminals to justice and protect American consumers.”
Klobuchar said in her letter that seniors are especially susceptible to telemarketing scams. She gave the example of a senior in Minnesota who was targeted by a telemarketing scammer to send $47,000 overseas to claim a car she had supposedly won.
In July Klobuchar introduced the Senior Fraud Protection act, a bill that coordinates the federal response to these crimes and establishes a robust complaint tracking system. The bill would require the Federal Trade Commission to coordinate with other agencies to monitor the market for fraud schemes.
By Brad Schrade
Abuses by legal guardians and conservators are a growing problem across the country as the population ages, and Minnesota policymakers on Wednesday announced a plan to weed out bad actors by strengthening the state’s background check process.
State Attorney General Lori Swanson is supporting a legislative push this session to require more detailed and frequent background checks on this loosely regulated industry that oversees the affairs of those in need of help.
“Financial abuse by guardians who are supposed to be looking out for vulnerable people is exploitive,” Swanson said in a release. “The legislation would update Minnesota law to help ensure that guardians meet the high standards necessary to look after another persons.”
The bill would expand checks to review whether a guardian or conservator was denied a state license for some fiduciary transgression or if there was some licensing action against them. It would require the disclosure of information in their past that could raise questions about their fitness for the job, such as if they have ever filed for bankruptcy or had an order of protection against them.
It will also lower the frequency for background checks from every five years to every two years for those in the profession and require disclose potentially disqualifying information, including new criminal history, within 30 days of the incident, according to a release detailing the proposal.
The chief sponsors for the legislation will be a pair of DFL lawmakers -- Rep. Debra Hilstrom, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Latz, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently issued a report detailing scores of problems of abuse and exploitation by guardians. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pursuing legislation at the federal level to crack down on elder abuse and exploitation by guardians and conservators.
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