The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now offers advice on avoiding and reporting scams in a dozen languages — adding to the already available information in English and Spanish.
In a November 8, 2023, Consumer Alert, the FTC announced, “Scammers speak your language. That’s why the FTC now takes reports in multiple languages.”
English and Spanish speakers can report online using two websites each. Those who speak one of the 12 newly added languages can call the FTC and opt to speak through an interpreter.
Interpreting services and documentation on avoiding scams are available for Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, French, Hmong, Korean, Russian, Somali, Tagalog, Ukrainian, and Russian.
“There’s even a fraud handbook for recent arrivals to the United States,” the Consumer Alert points out. “Whether you get FTC materials online or in print, we hope you’ll share them with family and friends in your communities. By sharing what you know about scams and reporting what you see, you can help stop scams and protect your community.”
The new language services fall under the FTC’s “Every Community” initiative, which has been around since at least 2019. These efforts focus on protecting a range of communities, including immigrants and recent refugees, from different types of fraud.
What explains the FTC’s interest in addressing communities with high rates of limited English proficiency (LEP) at this moment?
Certainly, LEP individuals may be at greater risk than English speakers as targets for specific scams, but language technology may help scammers reach, and even convince, more LEP victims than in years past.
Scammers might take advantage of the ever-improving quality of free and publicly available machine translation engines to target marks with emails and text messages. Speech translation tools could be the next frontier to help scammers come across as natural and trustworthy in phone calls or voicemail.
According to a 2019 survey from the US Census Bureau, four percent of total US households were categorized as LEP, meaning no one aged 14 or older could communicate well in English — meaning many may well use the FTC’s new language services soon.