The Fraud Prevention project is a series of education campaigns run every year by ICPEN countries under one theme but focusing on an issue relevant to each individual participating agency.
Through this initiative we educate market participants about scams and furnish them with appropriate information on how to protect themselves from falling prey to unfair businesses.
Each year more and more member countries of ICPEN implement various Fraud Prevention Month activities. For example in 2009, 29 countries participated in this initiative.
What do we focus on in particular? We have addresses such topics as:
• deceptive and aggressive retail tactics used to lure consumers into an agreement,
• identity theft,
• misleading advertising,
• legal requirements concerning pricing information and labeling,
• online shopping,
• false lottery and business directories,
• health fraud.
Often our campaigns target particular audiences including the young, the elderly, small businesses and charities, and have a range of community, non-government, and private sector organizations as partners.
• The NCPW website had 69,474 visitors from mid-January through the end of March. This includes over 30,500 unique visitors and an average of nearly 700 visits per day, and 6,786 repeat visitors in February and March alone. The NCPW blog currently has 4887 subscribers.
• Attorneys general and other consumer protection agencies in 37 states promoted National Consumer Protection Week in some way. Many announced cases involving travel scams, money wiring, telemarketing and other topics. Others hosted privacy-oriented events such as shred-a-thons.
• Sixteen federal and national partners promoted NCPW on their websites via press releases, buttons/banners, blog posts and other tactics.
• Approximately 30 non-partner organizations and agencies promoted NCPW on their websites or through press releases, blog posts and other activities.
• These activities contributed significantly to over 330 online media stories between mid-January and the end of March. Outlets in 38 states ran stories featuring or mentioning NCPW.
• The term “National Consumer Protection Week” produced over 4,000 search results overall from mid-January and the end of March.
• Twenty national media outlets ran stories mentioning NCPW. These include Forbes (2 articles), Yahoo News (blog), The Huffington Post, Consumer Affairs, InsideARM, Ecorazi, Ad Age, Digital Journal, and Daily Finance.
• There were 67 NCPW partners this year, including federal, state, local and nonpublic consumer protection agencies and organizations.
The aim of the campaign was to rise awareness of consumers and enterpreneurs about righs and responsibilities while selling or buying package travel.
This year the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK) has devoted all its efforts during ‘Fraud Prevention Month’ (FPM) to an extremely serious subject: planned obsolescence. Only a small part of the population knows this term, which describes the problem that sometimes products are designed – deliberately – in such a way that they break after a short usage time or shortly after the (statutory or commercial) guarantee period has expired. Well-known examples of this are light bulbs, printers and MP3 players. Another problem in this regard is that some products are constructed in a way that they cannot be repaired easily. As a consequence, consumers have to dispose of the product even if the actual damage is small, and they are forced to buy a new one. Of course companies deny having such intentions when designing a product, and the business world often describes planned planned obsolescence as a kind of conspiracy theory.
With this year’s FPM we wanted to get, on the one hand, an idea of how consumers experience this problem and, on the other hand, we wanted to raise consumers’ awareness in this context. For this reason we have launched an online questionnaire together with VKI (the Austrian Consumer Information Association) and have provided visitors to our homepage with information about where they can find lists of problematical products and how they can repair such products (or where they can have them repaired) for little money. How we continue depends, inter alia , on the outcome of the questionnaire
The main focus in this years campaign was to educate consumers to reveal different scams and to help them feel safer and more secure when shopping online. A rising issue in Norway has been an increase in advertising of counterfeit goods claiming to be real, espescially in banners on Facebook. The Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman has therefore made a list of different webshops selling counterfeit goods (http://www.forbrukerombudet.no/2012/04/11042251.0).
Finnish Consumer ombudsmand and consumer advisers have received lots of complaints concerning dieting products ordered from Internet. Many times consumers have ordered "free" trials but orders have turned out to be actually subject to a charge. It's is difficult for consumers to reach out the companies in order to complain as many of them don't give their contact information etc. The dieting products don't often work as promised eather.
Finnish Consumer Ombudsman, Finnish Food Safety Authority, The Concumer's assosiation of Finland and European Consumer Center in Finland warned consumers together aboud frauds concerning dieting products marketed online.
During the Fraud Prevention Month 2013, the Consumer Rights Protection Centre of Latvia (CRPC) concentrated on safe shopping in collective purchasing web pages and coupon web pages. The main goal was to inform consumers about the main risks using collective purchasing web pages, inform on the issues which consumers must pay attention to while shopping and what are the consumer rights if something goes wrong. Part of activities was taken within campaign „E-Skills week”. CRPC participated in webinar with presentation, developed advises and published them on the web page about safe shopping in collective purchasing web pages, organized PR activities and communicated this issue within social media.
Le Ministère des Classes moyennes et du Tourisme a lancé pour le mois de la prévention de l'arnaque une campagne de sensibilisation qui reprend les pricipales arnaques auxquelles professionnels et consomamteurs doivent faire attention et rapelle par la même à la vigilance de tous.
This year the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority of the Republic of Lithuania concentrated on the fraud prevention in the step door selling contracts reacting to the increasing number of consumer complaints. The main goal of the information campaign was to draw consumers' attention to the possible breaches in such situations and provide both concentrate and clear information about consumer rights and duties buying goods at home for the not solicited agent.
During the Fraud Prevention Month 2013, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) warned in a press campaign against misleading or dubious promises of winning and competitions. As consumers often have to deal with untrustworthy promises of prizes or attractive competitions which bear risks, BVL has compiled the most important tips for consumers with regard to the risks and the handling of competitions or the promises of prizes.
The project of The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) called “Surfer haben Rechte” runs the website www.surfer-haben-rechte.de (http://www.surfer-haben-rechte.de/cps/rde/xbcr/digitalrechte/Flyer_Projekt_Verbraucherrechte_in_der_digitalen_Welt.pdf).
The aim of the project is to empower German consumers to actively use the internet and to gain self confidence in using the worldwide web. The website provides information on many topics: data protection, social networks, online games etc.
During the last months the project has informed consumers about their rights with regard to downloaded ebooks. Is it a purchase like buying a book in an offline bookshop or does the consumer just have the right to use the ebook? Is he or she allowed to sell the ebook? The website further provides the information about what is allowed and what is forbidden concerning the use of data files. (http://www.surfer-haben-rechte.de/cps/rde/xchg/digitalrechte/hs.xsl/75_2391.htm; see also: http://irights.info/was-darf-man-mit-dateien-aus-online-shops-machen ). In addition there are pending two court cases of vzbv concerning the resale of ebooks.