Revised 2011 by:
Brenda Procter, Associate State Extension Specialist, Personal Financial Planning; Graham McCaulley, Extension Graduate Assistant, Human Development and Family Studies; Marilyn Preston, Extension Graduate Assistant, Human Development and Family Studies; Lucy Schrader, Associate State Extension Specialist, Human Environmental Sciences

Relationship to Building Strong Families
Dealing with fraud or predatory lenders can add stress and strain on a family or limit what the family can do. Because time and resources are limited, families have to find ways to share information and resources to get what they need and meet their goals. If people become victims of fraud, they can lose money, time, their identity and their reputation. These losses can also affect jobs, access to credit and loans, and family well-being.

Family financial capability is an important family strength. In order to teach children how to be responsible consumers, parents need to have a good understanding of how to create and follow spending plans, how to avoid predatory lending and how to incorporate lessons about finances into family time. As children age, it is important they have a basic understanding of how finances work so they can begin their young adulthood on strong financial footing.

Families need to communicate with each other, work together, have a commitment to family goals and spending plans, and help each other get through challenging times.

Brief program description
This Consumer Beware workshop helps families be aware of possible financial scams, frauds and identity theft, and teaches families how to protect themselves in the marketplace. The information will help participants make better consumer decisions to get the most from their resources.

Research findings
Consumers purchase goods or services for personal or family use (Agnes, 2008). In America, we are often classified as a consumer society (Glickman, 1999; Goodman, 2008). Individuals and families (i.e., household “consumer units”) spend an average of nearly $50,000 per year on consumer expenditures, with the majority (90 percent) of consumer spending on food, housing, apparel and services, transportation, health care, entertainment, and personal insurance and pensions (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2009).

Adults, youth and children are bombarded with media and marketing information every day. Although estimates vary, the average American can be exposed to roughly 600 ads per day (n.a., 2007). It can be difficult for people to make sense of the information and make good decisions for their families. Sometimes people do not get what they thought they were buying.

In addition to making sense of the ads and companies themselves, people now also have to worry about the sharing of information. In 2005, 8.3 million Americans suffered $15.6 billion in losses from identity theft. Types of identity theft include credit card, checking and savings, telephone service, Internet payment accounts, email and other Internet accounts, and medical insurance (Federal Trade Commission [FTC], 2007).

People purchase products in stores, through the mail, over the phone and in a variety of ways on the Internet (e.g., email, direct ordering, auction and classified sites). Furthermore, the dependence on “plastic” has continued to rise, with Americans now using credit and debit cards more than cash or checks (debit cards are the main purchasing tool; Amromin & Chakravorti, 2007; Goodman, 2008; Seidel, 2009).

In today’s world of technology, the transfer of personal information is astounding. Although most consumers’ product/purchase options have expanded and transactions have been made easier, consumer-related technological advancements bring additional risks (Holt & MacManus, 2008). This module helps families plan for these risks and set a plan in place to protect themselves.

Goals and objectives

  • To understand how consumers are vulnerable to scams, fraud and identity theft.
  • To gain skills to detect, deter and defend against scams, fraud and identity theft.
  • To recognize signs of predatory practices.
  • To become a more informed and empowered consumer.

Target audience
Working families with children

If you have any questions or need information, contact:

Kathy Dothage
Building Strong Families Program Coordinator
University of Missouri Extension
1205 University Avenue, Ste. 400
Columbia, MO 65211

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Last updated: 05/16/2017
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