This Saturday at the All Peoples Community Center in South L.A., professionals will teach you how to spot a scam-- or get your money back if you've already been scammed. The Scam Jam will have professionals from the local, state and federal level, along with public counsel services, the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs and the Federal Trade Commission, on hand from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., to educate the public and field complaints.
Bruce Riordan of the U.S. Attorneys office, Central District of California, said although fraud claims may not be resolved that same day, it will give people a chance to actually sit down with a professional and "get the ball rolling."
"The field of consumer protection is decades old," said Riordan "But the general sense over the last couple years is that the field needs to be revitalized and refocused on."
He said the Internet is a 'wondrous' tool, but it can also let scam artists "right into your home" if you're not watching closely. Elderly people and young folks are especially vulnerable, Riordan added, because the older generation is often confused by the Internet or taken advantage of through it, and the youth can be too trusting.
"The proliferation of fraud is certainly linked to the internet," he said.
Saturday's event will be a "pilot" program for this form of community outreach, and will include informational panels and one-on-one counseling. The event promises to share tips on how to avoid being "ripped off" in a variety of instances, from immigration fraud to identity theft, false advertising and mortgage fraud. The day will also cover scams related to health benefits, credit cards, bank accounts, warranties, renters and homeowners rights and even car purchases.
The Scam Jam, aka the Consumer Education Resource Fair, is hosted by California's U.S. Attorney's Office, and Riordan said they aim to educate and engage with the community; especially military personnel and Spanish-speakers. After a series of meetings with local law enforcement agencies, legal service providers, and others, these two demographics were determined to be the most in need of information on how to protect themselves from fraud, he added. Riordan explained that although there are educational websites that can be helpful, often times military personnel lack access to these resources and Spanish-speakers face language barriers.
In preparation for Saturday's event, the Scam Jam published these tips for safe consumerism:
#1: Always get, read and understand a contract before you sign it -- ask questions and get answers in advance!
#2: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it is! Never rush into accepting a "must-sign-today-deal" - take your time to think it over!
#3: Always get promises in writing! Remember- if it isn't in writing, it doesn't exist!
The All Peoples Community Center is located at 822 E. 20th Street