DANIELS -- The Attorney General Citizen Advisory Committee welcomed five new members to its group at its annual summit April 2.
The one-day symposium was held this year at the Glade Springs Conference Center.
The Citizen Advisory Committee was created in 2007 to educate consumers, said Denise Thacker, Director of Field Services for the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General.
"We want to educate West Virginia about consumer issues so people don't fall victim to scams," Thacker said. "The committee is made up of 35 citizens who are very active in their communities. We have a wide array of outstanding citizens on the committee; some of the members are doctors, lawyers, members of law enforcement, teachers and other professions."
Thacker said they choose members of the committee by how active they are in their communities, then contact them and ask them if they would be interested in joining. With the five new members of the committee, they now have 35 members.
William Cook, from Boone County, was one of the founding members of the committee and said he has always been a community-oriented person.
"I love to help people," Cook said. "Being on the committee offers me a chance to get myself educated on the situations so I can better help others who might not understand the issues."
Cook said the committee has been a wealth of knowledge for him.
"I've learned so much while being a part of this," he said. "I really care about people and it's so important to help others to be aware of what's going on so they can better protect themselves from scams or fraud."
Cook said he wants to set up information sessions through the Attorney General's Office in Boone County at local retirement homes and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College for credit fraud and senior safety.
"The information sessions are such a great awareness tool for our citizens," he said. "We can all take something away from these sessions."
Sandy Parker, one of the five new committee members, said she's always been extremely active in her community.
"I just want my community to be the best it can be and want to provide services to the community," Parker said.
Parker said she was happy to become a member of the committee when she was asked to join.
"It's a great thing to be a part of," she said. "I'm so active in my community already and really want to do anything I can to help it."
Jill Miles, Deputy Attorney General of the Consumer Protection Division, said the Citizen Advisory Committee members are the Attorney General's Office's eyes and ears.
"The committee members are out there everywhere and can let the Attorney General's Office know when a new scam or problem arises anywhere in West Virginia," Miles said. "Then we can put out information, hold workshops or information sessions to make everyone else aware so they won't get scammed."
Derek Walker, Chief Investigator of the Attorney General's Office, said the Attorney General's Office is big on educating consumers.
"If we have educated consumers, we'll prevent complaints and reduce the amount of litigation," Walker said. "The committee can help us by being active in their community groups and helping us get our foot in the door to help them."
Walker said they can travel anywhere in the state to present on topics like identity theft, debt relief, predatory lending, wire transfers, Internet safety, preneed funeral contracts and many more.
"If we have a community group that asks about a topic we don't already have a presentation on, we can create and customize a presentation for that topic for that community group," Walker said.
Scott A. Adkins, Project Director of the AARP Foundation, said an informed consumer is a good consumer.
"Roughly one-third of West Virginia is members of AARP, and most of the Citizen Advisory Committee is members of AARP," Adkins said. "If they can take this knowledge with them when they leave the information sessions, they can make informed decisions on so many things."
The five new members include Ron Booker, of Beckley in Raleigh County, a criminal justice and forensics expert; Cathy Larck, of Putnam County, a Union Carbide retiree and veteran of civic organizations; Carl Eastham, of Cabell County, former President of the Huntington Professional Fire Fighters; James Lee, of Brooke County, the Chief Probation Officer for the First Circuit Court; and Parker, who is the Law Enforcement Secretary for the Mineral County Sheriff's Office.
To contact a Citizen Advisory Committee member, field representative or consumer advocate in your area, call Tucker at 304-558-2021.