Fraud occurs when someone unlawfully misrepresents information, facts or events for financial gain, and according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation, it’s a big problem in America. Each year eight in 10 Americans are solicited with a potentially fraudulent offer such as a phony charity fundraiser or bogus disaster-relief effort. About $50 billion is lost to fraud annually in this country and, sadly, elders are 34% more likely to be targets than middle-age individuals.
Native-led nonprofit First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation have teamed up to see that Native Americans don’t fall prey to scams by creating the Fighting Fraud 101 campaign. On February 4, 2015, Cherokee Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs employees had a chance to learn more about the exciting awareness campaign as part of an interactive financial skills workshop.
Sarah Dewees is the Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs at First Nations and helped design a Fighting Fraud 101 toolkit to assist Native communities that could be especially susceptible to fraud. She warns that big payouts have focused a lot of attention toward Indian Country in recent years and that technology in the form of text messages, social media and email has made communities that were previously isolated and remote, like much of Indian Country, more accessible to fraudsters.
“There are definitely some at-risk Native communities right now,” Dewees said. “We’ve seen a number of highly publicized legal settlements resulting in payouts to Native people across the country. Not to mention ongoing per-capita and allotment income from sources such as gaming, leasing, and oil and gas revenues. Our goal is to work within Native communities to ensure that tribes and individuals are not targeted by fraudsters and scammers looking to exploit these windfalls.”
The three-hour workshop was offered in both morning and afternoon sessions and included detailed information on budgeting, financial recordkeeping, retirement planning and basic investing in addition to fraud awareness and prevention. Engaging learning activities were featured to reinforce key topics and concepts. One particularly interesting exercise tested recordkeeping and organizational habits by challenging participants to estimate how quickly and efficiently they could collect critical personal information and documents such as birth certificates, past years’ income tax returns, a current retirement account statement, and even the total amount they spent on holiday gifts last year.
“We’re thrilled our staff is able to receive this type of training onsite,” noted Agency Superintendent Darlene Whitetree and Deputy Superintendent Ruth McCoy. “Sound financial skills are crucial to the success of our employees both in the workplace and outside. Moreover, we encourage our staff to share this information with their families and others who might benefit from gaining a clearer understanding of finance.”
For more information on how you can join the Fighting Fraud 101 campaign or to request free fraud-fighting materials, contact First Nations Programs Consultant Shawn Spruce at firstname.lastname@example.org or (505) 247-8861. You can dowload the Fighting Fraud 101 pamphlet at this link: http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/predatory-lending.
By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Programs Consultant