A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – For those of us who recall what it was like to have dinner regularly interrupted by unwanted telemarketers, late last month was a special time, because it marked the 10th anniversary of the National Do Not Call Registry.
The program, not surprisingly, was an immediate hit, with 50 million phone numbers added in the first three months alone. Now, there are more than 221 million on file, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s worth noting that Kentucky was a leader in this area, because we had established our own do-not-call list a year earlier. It became part of the national registry in 2007. (If you would like to add your phone number, please contact 888-382-1222 or go online athttps://www.donotcall.gov/. You will only need to do this once, because this service does not expire.)
As our nation becomes ever more connected, programs like this and several others with consumers in mind have helped us avoid not just high-pressure sales tactics but also such crimes as scams and identity theft.
That latter crime has sky-rocketed since the popular rise of the internet and has been the leading complaint handled by the FTC for the last 13 years. It accounted for a sixth of the two million cases the agency investigated in 2012, and nearly 2,500 came from Kentucky. That puts us 39th among the states on average – the lowest in the South in this category – and we rank even lower for other types of fraud, indicating our citizens are not being targeted as much as those living in most other states.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of those who serve our country. Military families filed 62,000 complaints with the FTC in 2012, which is a key reason why that agency and such others as the Department of Defense have teamed up to call July 17th Military Consumer Protection Day. Those wanting to know more can find a wealth of information online at Military.ncpw.gov.
Another vulnerable group targeted by scam artists is our elderly. A survey cited by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that a fifth of those 65 or older reported they had been a victim of financial fraud, resulting in nearly $3 billion stolen every year. Many think this figure is actually much higher due to under-reporting.
A little more than half of the states, including Kentucky, have enacted laws designed to curb this problem. As our country continues its graying trend, this type of crime could become much worse if we don’t continue to take a pro-active stance against it.
In an effort to increase awareness, the state’s Department of Financial Institutions held more than a dozen meetings across the state between 2007 and 2012, reaching 1,200 senior citizens. The state’s Department of Insurance and the Attorney General’s office as well as the Better Business Bureau also took part, since all three are also heavily involved in stopping scams.
“Scam,” in fact, is the acronym that the Attorney General calls on everyone to remember to avoid being a victim. We should be:
· Stingy with our personal information,
· Check any odd charges on our financial documents,
· Ask for a free copy of our credit report once a year by calling 877-322-8228 or going online atwww.annualcreditreport.com; and
· Manage our personal records carefully so would-be thieves cannot access them.
Law enforcement and financial regulating agencies have re-dedicated their efforts in recent years to catch these types of criminals and to keep the public informed. The Kentucky House has been vigilant as well, and during this year’s legislative session, it voted unanimously to encourage the Kentucky Board of Education to require financial literacy courses in every school. This would help make sure our students have the head start they need before becoming adults.
There is much more information available about these issues, of course, and good places to start are the agencies I have already mentioned.
If there is way I can also be of help, don’t hesitate to let me know. My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.