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March 8, 2010

ATTORNEY GENERAL MADIGAN OFFERS RESOURCES TO PROTECT SENIORS
IN TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES

New Consumer Protection Initiatives Kick off
National Consumer Protection Week

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan marked the beginning of National Consumer Protection Week today by announcing her office’s resources to help older Illinoisans survive the economic downturn and avoid scam artists. She introduced a guide for protecting seniors in the current financial crisis and launched a program to educate seniors to identify and avoid consumer fraud.

Following the Federal Trade Commission’s national theme of Dollars & Sense: Rated “A” for All Ages, the Attorney General’s office is using National Consumer Protection Week to focus on the financial challenges and scams that seniors face in a volatile economic climate.

“Although the recession has affected everybody, older Illinoisans living on fixed incomes are often targets of scams,” said Madigan. “It is important that Illinois seniors have the information and resources they need to fight consumer fraud and deal with financial hardships. My office is focused on providing seniors with these resources.”

Attorney General Madigan has created “Every Cent Counts – for Senior Citizens,” a guide designed to help seniors spot and avoid fraud and understand their consumer rights and options so that they can make the most of existing dollars and safeguard their finances. The guide provides information for seniors facing credit and debt problems or difficulty paying their home mortgages, as well as details on how to assess whether a reverse mortgage is a legitimate option, and how to combat identity theft. It also explains how seniors can identify and avoid scams associated with debt settlement, counterfeit checks, mortgage rescue fraud and secret shopper offers. Interested individuals can access the guide – which is available in English and Spanish – on the Attorney General’s Web site at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov or by calling 1-800-386-5438 to request a copy by mail.

Also today, Attorney General Madigan launched, Silver Beat, a consumer education program that she has created as another avenue to ensure that seniors have the knowledge necessary to protect themselves from con artists and deceptive practices. Far too often, scam artists perceive seniors as vulnerable and relatively wealthy due to their ability to access home equity, retirement accounts and pensions. As a result, seniors are often the target of a wide range scams, exploitation and fraud. Through the Silver Beat program, the Attorney General’s office will offer educational seminars for seniors throughout Illinois to recognize and avoid scams. Silver Beat participants can then pass the information along to educate other seniors in their communities about how to avoid consumer scams, including debt settlement traps, fake check cashing scams, risky reverse mortgages and health care fraud.

“One of the smartest actions we can take is to provide seniors with detailed information on how to avoid fraud and ask them to pass that knowledge along to other seniors,” said Attorney General Madigan. “Over the coming months, my office will be reaching out to seniors through organizations and senior centers across the state. We are looking forward to making this program a vital component of our overall efforts to protect consumers and help all Illinoisans cope with these difficult economic times.”

Seniors interested in learning more about this program or attending or hosting a Silver Beat program, should contact Erin Ruebbelke, in the Attorney General’s office at 217-557-1982 or e-mail her at eruebbelke@atg.state.il.us.

For information on all consumer issues, consumers can visit Madigan's Web site at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov or call one of the Consumer Fraud Hotlines listed below.

Consumer Fraud Hotlines:
Chicago: 1-800-386-5438
Springfield: 1-800-243-0618
Carbondale: 1-800-243-0607
Spanish Language Hotline: 1-866-310-8398

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