Moran convenes hearing on efforts to halt scams that hurt consumers, economy

Consumer scams have become more sophisticated with advancements in technology, U.S Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) said during a recent hearing that focused on law enforcement efforts to combat fraud and the billions of dollars in damage it inflicts on the U.S. economy.

Moran, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security, also explored the implementation of consumer education and outreach programs aimed at curbing scams.

“From fake charity donation solicitation calls to ‘phishing’ email scams that lead to identity theft, a wide variety of scams that harm Americans continue to bypass consumer protection enforcement measures at the federal, state and local levels,” Moran said.

“Consumers need protection from those who seek to defraud them through scams, and today’s hearing helps us evaluate the best possible ways we can prevent American consumers from being scammed out of billions of dollars each year,” he said.

Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), testified that military consumers and small businesses were among the groups often targeted by fraudsters. When people committing fraud avoid detection or dissipate assets to make it difficult for consumers to seek redress in the court system, the nation’s primary consumer protection agency, the FTC, will step in, she said.

“As acting chairman, I have instructed commission staff to focus our law enforcement efforts on stopping fraudulent practices, particularly those that are causing the largest consumer harm,” Ohlhausen testified. “Doing so will ensure that the commission is using its resources for the maximum benefit of consumers.”

Moran said it was discouraging to learn that individuals who hear reports about scams sometimes later fall victim to similar scams themselves. He questioned whether there was evidence of successful public service announcements that served to prevent additional fraud.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine testified: “… sometimes I’ll actually see people who say, ‘I saw you on TV talking about the grandparent scam’ or ‘I saw you on TV talking about the IRS scam.’ So while we are successful in some prosecutions, the ones that are over the internet, the ones that are long distance, are very very difficult …”

DeWine also testified that in 2011, he established an Economic Crimes Unit in the Consumer Protection Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The unit includes seasoned prosecutors and investigators tasked with holding fraudsters accountable and assisting local law enforcement and prosecutors in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting consumer fraud of a criminal nature.