By Colleen Tressler, Senior Project Manager, Federal Trade Commission Division of Consumer and Business Education
The FTC’s education campaign fights fraud by encouraging consumers, businesses, and organizations to share information about how to avoid scams.
As a businessperson, you know the value of a good reputation. When scammers lie and cheat people, it hurts the business community as a whole. And when a fraudster steals from someone in your community, that could be a lost sale for your company. That’s why fraud prevention is the business of business—and free information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can help.
Older people may be among your most loyal customers, so you have every reason to help them avoid scams. Pass It On is the FTC’s consumer education campaign designed to encourage older adults to talk to their friends, neighbors, and relatives about scams. The goal of Pass It On is to prevent fraud from happening in the first place.
Pass It On is striking a chord with older people. They understand that sharing what you know can help protect someone whom you know from a scam. Since launching the campaign in 2014, the FTC has distributed 6 million pieces of Pass It On print material in English and Spanish.
Free Pass It On Materials
Campaign materials cover scams that older adults may be likely to confront:
Imposter scams – what to do when someone calls or emails you pretending to be someone they’re not and asks for money or personal information
Identity theft – what to do when someone gets your personal information and runs up bills in your name
Charity fraud – what to do when someone contacts you and asks for donations to a fake charity
Healthcare scams – what to do when someone lies to you about medical discount cards or changes to Medicare to get your medical information
“Paying too much” scams – what to do when unexpected charges for fees or services that you didn’t order appear on your bill
“You’ve won” scams – what to do when someone tells you that you’ve won a prize or sweepstakes and then asks for money to claim your prize
For each topic, the Pass It On campaign features a one-page article, a bookmark, and an activity. The activities include an imposter scams word scramble, a “paying too much” word-find puzzle, a secret-message decoder on “you’ve won” scams, and more. These activities can be used at senior centers, libraries, or scam jams (public events that inform people about how to protect against fraud) to make talking about scams entertaining.
The Pass It On sample folder gives you resources on six topics, including identity theft, healthcare scams, and charity fraud. Use the folder as a sample. Then, order copies of the flyers and bookmarks to hand out, start a conversation, and pass on.
Sample Pass It On Article
Here’s an example of the information you’ll find in the article on “you’ve won” scams:
Here’s how they work:
You get a card, a call, or an email telling you that you won! Maybe it’s a trip or a prize, a lottery, or a sweepstakes. The person calling is so excited and can’t wait for you to get your winnings.
But here’s what happens next: they tell you there’s a fee, some taxes, or customs duties to pay. And then they ask for your credit card number or bank account information, or they ask you to wire money.
Either way, you lose money instead of winning it. You don’t ever get that big prize. Instead, you get more requests for money, and more promises that you won big.
Here’s what you can do:
- Keep your money—and your information—to yourself. Never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need it. And never wire money to anyone who asks you to.
- Pass this information on to a friend. You probably throw away these kinds of scams or hang up when you get these calls. But you probably know someone who could use a friendly reminder.
The article also explains how to report a scam to the FTC as well as how to sign up for scam alerts at ftc.gov/subscribe.
What Others Are Doing and Saying
Local businesses and organizations like yours are getting in on the act and using Pass It On materials in their communities. Banks, for instance, are partnering with local senior and medical centers to distribute Pass It On materials at senior expos. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service recently shared materials with people during National Consumer Protection Week. The FTC also produced a video that shows how other organizations are using Pass It On materials in their communities.
Here’s what businesspeople are saying about Pass It On:
I represent a bank, and we go out to our senior community and provide information on scams and fraud at various events. The information in the Pass It On folder is very important, and it is presented in a great way.”
— Margie Wayne, Winchester Savings Bank
I just received a sample Pass It On folder and promptly ordered the materials for our outreach to homebound seniors. The materials are simply wonderful, and I can’t wait to receive and distribute them knowing they will make a difference to many seniors who just don’t know what to beware of and who to contact.”
— Evelyn Kinsella, Food & Friends, Rogue Valley Council of Governments
How Businesses and Organizations Can Get Involved
Here are a few ways you can use Pass It On materials:
Enlist your clients. Do you represent companies in the financial services sector, the healthcare arena, or other industries that serve older people? Pass It On is a great way to remind older customers that you value them.
Share copies of Pass It On materials with your local library, senior center, adult living community, and veterans facilities, or anywhere else where older adults gather.
Link to Pass It On materials from your website.
Make print copies of Pass It On materials available at your business locations.
Plan an event. Host a forum, workshop, or seminar in your community and share the tools that people need for today’s economy. Partner with local organizations such as the police department, senior center, or library.
Order Free Materials
Like all FTC materials, Pass It On resources are free and in the public domain. That means you can order, share, adapt, or print the materials and even put your own logo on them. Copies are available in print and online.
Print: Order print copies of bookmarks or pads of the one-page articles at
ftc.gov/bulkorder. Copies are available in English or Spanish.
Online: All the materials also are available on the Pass It On websites:
ftc.gov/passiton (in English) and ftc.gov/pasalo (in Spanish). The websites include the articles and bookmarks, plus the activities and videos.
Colleen Tressler is a Senior Project Manager in the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education. Her career in the consumer affairs and education arena spans more than 30 years. During that time, she has taken an especially active role in helping to educate consumers about issues that affect their financial well-being. Tressler is responsible for planning, developing, and implementing creative, practical, plain-language, mission-related campaigns. Some of her most successful national campaigns deal with consumer credit, identity theft, and privacy issues.