Protecting the Elderly:

Federal Agencies' Role Concerning Questionable Marketing Practices

HRD-87-120FS: Published: Aug 26, 1987. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO: (1) identified the federal agencies with jurisdiction to review the activities of organizations that use direct mail advertising; and (2) determined what activities agencies used to protect the elderly from deceptive business practices.

GAO found that: (1) the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) share the major role in investigating and acting against violators of laws protecting the public from mail fraud; (2) although there is no specific legislation to protect the elderly, USPS places special emphasis on reviewing fraud directed against them; (3) although several agencies have educational programs dealing with fraudulent and deceptive business practices, they do not deal specifically with the elderly; (4) although other agencies protect the public against fraud relating to specific items, the organizations selling those items generally do not use direct mail solicitation; (5) the Internal Revenue Service and USPS examine organizations' applications to decide whether to grant, withhold, or revoke preferential tax treatment and reduced postage rates; and (6) the Department of Justice generally brings civil or criminal action against agency-referred cases.

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