This week, the Scam Awareness Alliance is hosting a booth at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, spreading awareness about what our organization is doing every day to prevent fraud.
This conference is an important venue to discuss new, innovative ways to prevent consumer fraud and financial scams. Unfortunately, with new technologies on the rise, scam artists are finding more ways and channels to create new twists on old scams.
Here's a staggering statistic: did you know that the annual cost of consumer financial fraud in the United States is over $50 billion? And while approximately 37.8 million incidents of fraud took place in 2011, only 1 million of those were reported to authorities.
Due to underreporting, the impact of fraud is likely higher than the reported $50 billion; but it is the emotional impact that is truly troubling. Many fraud victims report severe stress, insomnia and -- with the recent trial of Jamaican lottery scammer, Sanjay Ashani Williams - the financial loss caused by scams even leads some to suicide.
Williams set up a website and bought lists of American names off the black market, sifting through files for targets. Through his website, other scammers could buy the phone numbers of elderly Americans for $5.50 apiece. One of his victims, the 81-year-old Albert Poland Jr, committed suicide due to the stress of being targeted by relentless thieves. When the calls from Jamaica wouldn't stop even after his death, his family took action.
Stories like these hit home for us, and are one of the primary reasons we have stepped up our efforts to report scams, and why we are spreading resources at Money 20/20 this week. Though arrests are on the rise and consumer information harder to track down, the best way to catch scammers is to report any incidents to authorities. We hope our presence at Money 20/20 will build awareness of consumer fraud and lead others to take action.