This summer, I am interning at the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C. as a Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice WOW Fellow. As America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, NCL represents consumers and workers on issues including Internet fraud, child labor, and food safety. I discovered this internship through the Hiatt Career Center, and became immediately interested in NCL’s work in promoting international consumer protection and social justice. As a public policy intern, I primarily research public policies relating to consumer fraud. I will also be updating NCL’s websites, drafting content for NCL’s LifeSmarts competition, and helping coordinate meetings of the Alliance Against Fraud organization.
During the past week, I began my first extensive research project on senior fraud. By researching successful senior educational programs and individuals who have passionately argued for more online scam control, I learned about the numerous cases of financial scams specifically targeted at seniors. Although many cases are unreported, seniors are often victims of health care, insurance, telemarketing, Internet, and lottery scams. To gain more knowledge and different perspectives, I attended a roundtable discussion, where Google’s DC Public Policy Manager discussed the company’s interest in improving online safety and technology for older adults. Existing educational programs for online safety have benefited younger generations, but have yet to reach seniors who are more vulnerable to fraud.
I also had the opportunity to attend All Eyes on Privacy: Transparency in the New Economy, an event hosted by Allstate, National Journal, and The Atlantic. Key speakers including U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn and The Honorable Jon Leibowitz discussed their perspectives on the impact of technology and government collection of data on consumer privacy. While some panelists strictly argued that the collection of data was a violation of consumers right to privacy, others saw the government’s decision as a necessity for the protection of the country against potential threats and attacks. According to the Allstate and National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, the biggest risk associated with data collection was identity theft, one of the biggest concerns associated with senior fraud.
In addition to my research on senior Internet fraud and privacy, I am also studying the impact of high airline cancellation and change fees on consumers. In 2008, airlines began charging consumers to check bags in response to high fuel costs. Since then, airlines started charging consumers with fees on food, drinks, priority boarding, seating arrangements, and extra leg room. Some airlines have even created policies that require overweight passengers to purchase an additional seat. Recently, major airlines have increased ticket change fees from $150 to $200. Airlines are profiting immensely from these fees while consumers continue to struggle to meet the already high airline prices. The government has carried out the three-hour flight delay law to protect consumers from long delays, but has yet to find solutions or alternatives to rising fees.
I am impressed by NCL’s over 100 years of advocacy and the positive changes NCL has made in many lives. This past week has been a truly new experience attending conferences and events. Fellow interns and I had a wonderful time helping out at NCL’s Child Labor Awareness Film Event, where we revealed some of the brutal conditions children are forced to work under. Many children sacrifice their education in order to support their families. I was once again reminded of my responsibility to make efforts to eliminate child labor internationally. I strongly believe that every child deserves an education, and I am proud to say that I am part of an organization that provides opportunities and protection for underprivileged children, seniors, and consumers. For the next upcoming months, I desire to use my international experiences and leadership skills to learn how to accentuate the rights of consumers and workers using public policies by performing detailed and through research and gaining first hand experiences at hearings and conferences.