REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 29, 2009 — Microsoft Corp., in collaboration with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and Western Union, today launched a series of online public service announcements (PSAs) designed to help protect consumers from scams related to mortgage foreclosure rescue offers and promises of credit repair and advance fee fraud, also known as lottery scams. The search advertising-driven PSAs will appear on Bing, Microsoft’s new search experience, and will target consumers most vulnerable to these types of Internet crimes — putting valuable and trustworthy information directly into the hands of those who need it most. By including this information within the search experience itself, these organizations aim to remind consumers to be on alert at precisely the moment they may likely be faced with scams.
In 2008, the Consumer Sentinel Network, a highly secure online database of millions of consumer complaints managed by the FTC, received more than 234,000 complaints about fraud where the consumer was contacted through the Internet.*The median payment amount for each complaint was $440. As part of Microsoft’s mission to help protect Internet users, Bing will present these PSAs to help keep consumers on guard against these all-too-common Internet scams.
The PSAs for each issue will be triggered by a series of targeted search terms entered on Bing, such as “foreclosure rescue,” “fix my credit” and “money transfer.” Users who click on the sponsored ad will be directed to a landing page with guidance on avoiding scams and information about how to report a scam if they have been victimized. (Landing pages on credit repair and mortgage foreclosure scams are hosted by the FTC; a landing page on avoiding advance fee fraud is hosted by Microsoft.)
In the current economic environment, personal financial security is paramount. Building on the FTC’s Fraud Forum in February that examined how public-private partnerships can more effectively protect consumers from fraudulent schemes, this PSA program is the first step in an ongoing campaign that Microsoft, the FTC, USPIS and Western Union are undertaking to educate consumers about the dangers of online fraud. Microsoft and Western Union also participate in the Advance Fee Fraud Coalition, a private-sector initiative to raise public awareness and encourage victims to report these crimes to law enforcement.
* Consumer Sentinel Network, Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January–December 2008
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“Unfortunately, many scammers who would exploit a homeowner in danger of foreclosure or a person struggling with credit card debt will try to misuse the Internet to connect with their victims. By harnessing the reach that Bing holds with consumers and the expertise of organizations like the FTC, USPIS and Western Union, we believe this program can help fight back against scams by reminding consumers to exercise their street smarts online right at the time they need it most.”
— Nancy Anderson
Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
“Search-based public service announcements are powerful because they reach consumers at the teachable moment. We’ll encourage other search engines to follow Microsoft’s lead and use PSAs to help their users avoid scams.”
— David Vladeck
Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection
Federal Trade Commission
“Con artists know uninformed consumers will be more likely to fall for their scams. That is why the Postal Inspection Service is pleased to increase fraud prevention and education messaging with our federal and corporate partners through Bing.”
— William R. Gilligan Jr.
Chief Postal Inspector
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
“Western Union is committed to consumer protection awareness and education, and we are pleased to work with Microsoft on these important efforts. We must continuously look for enhanced ways to educate consumers, and we are excited that Microsoft has provided another means to reach consumers.”
— Denise Jaworksi
Vice President, Global Consumer Protection Program