St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 23, 2012 - As it marks its 10th anniversary this month, the Consumer Fraud Task Force warns that thieves continue to find new and increasingly sophisticated ways to steal from unwary consumers.
Contacts (News Media Only):
“Ten years after our first meeting, it is clear that education and aggressive prosecution continue to be the best methods of going after these scammers,” the Task Force says. “Working with the public, we have had several notable successes. But there is a lot of work still to be done.”
The Task Force is a coalition of local, state and federal government agencies and nonprofit business and consumer groups in Missouri and Illinois that work together to protect consumer and donor rights and guard against fraud. The creation of the Task Force was announced on Oct. 29, 2002. Its first public alert dealt with questionable work-at-home schemes.
Since then, the group has tackled predatory payday loan offers, tax scams, timeshare reselling fraud, credit repair and foreclosure scams, bogus sweepstakes, Internet sweetheart scams, home remodeling and contracting fraud and a wide variety of other issues.
The Task Force also sponsors two “Shred Days” each year – in the spring and fall. The free events offer opportunities to destroy sensitive bills, documents and other personal papers that might be used by identity thieves.
Members of the Task Force have been instrumental in the ongoing investigation of the extended auto service contract industry in Missouri. That investigation led to the criminal prosecution of the brothers who operated U.S. Fidelis, the now-defunct Wentzville-based company.
The Task Force also has shared information that has led to other law enforcement investigations and legal actions.
“The Consumer Fraud Task Force offers valuable cooperation that leads to tangible results,” Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said. “Most recently, my office used information from our partners, particularly from the Better Business Bureau, to obtain a criminal indictment against Jason Leavy, who took money from consumers for repair work but never performed the repairs.”
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called the Task Force “a great example of strength in numbers. By sharing resources and coordinating our efforts, we can maximize our ability to identify and pursue emerging scams and warn consumers in the region of them,” she said.
J.R. Ball, agent in charge of the St. Louis field office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, noted that “while several investigative leads obtained from Task Force partners have resulted in criminal prosecutions, that is only part of the story. The education outreach provided through the Task Force allows our agency to prevent victimization in these types of crimes.”
Steven Baker, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Midwest Region, said the Task Force has been a model for similar efforts around the nation. “This group has worked hard to bring together different agencies that share a common goal of helping protect the public from a wide variety of scams and schemes.”
The U.S. Secret Service, which also is a part of the coalition, said the Task Force has been vital in educating consumers. “The efforts of the Task Force have led to increased public awareness of the fraud schemes and swindles that are so prevalent in our society,” said Dave Schreiber, special agent in charge, and Douglas Roberts, assistant to the special agent in charge of the St. Louis field office.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said she hopes the coalition will be a force for good in Missouri and Illinois for years to come. “The best way to celebrate our birthday is to reflect on our accomplishments and continue our efforts to protect consumers and go after the bad guys.”
To obtain information, or to report a scam, you may contact members of the Task Force:
Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com
, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org