- Listen to Ron's Interview with Kathy Stokes -
How to Fight Against Consumer Scams—and Stop Blaming the Victims
Every year, millions of consumers are affected by fraud and scams—especially elderly Americans. These incidents have been growing at an alarming rate and have assumed troublingly creative tactics: a variety of identity theft schemes; phone scams like callers claiming they’re with the IRS, Social Security or company customer service departments; lottery or sweepstakes scams; or callers pretending to be family members in financial distress. The Federal Trade Commission estimates the cost of financial fraud reached nearly $6 billion last year, and the real cost is likely much higher because many victims are too ashamed to come forward and report the incidents. But you don’t have to be a victim. In today’s episode, Kathy Stokes, Director of Fraud Prevention Programs with AARP, talks about her mission to educate older adults on the risks that fraud represents to their financial security—and what they can do about it. A nationally recognized expert in consumer fraud issues, Kathy will describe how she and her team have expanded AARP’s leadership in this arena, including the creation of a new victim support program and a multi-year campaign to end the use of gift cards in fraud. Besides offering some strategies for people to protect themselves, she’ll talk about the formation of a national effort to fundamentally transform how our society addresses consumer fraud. In fact, a major study by the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which teamed up with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation, found that our “victim-blaming” culture exacerbates the deep sense of shame and low self-esteem felt by financial fraud victims, shifting the focus away from perpetrators and allowing these horrific crimes to flourish.
But these practices can shift, Kathy argues, and she’ll explain how AARP and the FINRA Foundation are seeking to engage institutions—financial, law enforcement, legislative and judicial— the media, and the general public to drive long-term change in how victims of financial fraud are treated.
Kathy Stokes is a nationally recognized leader in the consumer fraud arena. As Director of Fraud Prevention Programs with AARP, Kathy leads AARP’s social mission work to educate older adults on the risks that fraud represents to their financial security. Since taking the helm of the AARP Fraud Watch Network in 2019, she and her team have vastly expanded AARP’s leadership in this space, including the creation of a new victim support program, a multi-year campaign to end the use of gift cards in fraud, and the formation of a national effort to fundamentally transform how our country addresses consumer fraud. Kathy’s career has centered on financial security, both in the realm of public policy and the development of retirement education programming. She was the first executive director of the American Savings Education Council, a program of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Kathy also worked for Ernst & Young and the Brookings Institution’s Retirement Security Project before leading her own communication consulting business for a decade. She currently serves on an advisory council to the board of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators and on an advisory council to a committee of the North American Securities Administrators Association. Kathy has a master’s degree in American Government from The Johns Hopkins University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Rhetoric and Communication.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource, where you’ll learn how to proactively spot scams, get guidance from our fraud specialists if you’ve been targeted, and learn how AARP advocates at the federal, state, and local levels to protect consumers and enforce the law.
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