Christopher D’Urso, C’18, MPA’18, is an expert in the whack-a-mole-like work of consumer protection. Whether it’s pension poaching tricks, weather disaster scams, or unscrupulous telemarketers, new swindles are always popping up— and D’Urso is always on alert.
D’Urso’s involvement with consumer affairs dates back to high school, when he worked with the Monmouth County, New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs. At Penn, he wanted to study consumer protection in the context of his new city. Joe Tierney, Executive Director of the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program, encouraged him to contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
“What I learned is that even though Philadelphia is the poorest major city in the U.S., there were really no proactive consumer protection programs here,” D’Urso says.
D’Urso founded Penn CASE (Consumer Assistance, Support, and Education), a community-service student organization for consumer protection in Philadelphia, that has brought its consumer fraud prevention message to more than 2,600 people through community-based organizations, nonprofits, and schools throughout West Philadelphia.
“The folks primarily targeted by fraud are seniors and low-income and immigrant communities,” explains D’Urso. “They’re people who might be most afraid to come forward. Penn CASE teaches how to spot and report scams.”
Penn CASE has also led efforts to address cyber security and postal fraud. And in November 2017, with the County and Municipal Consumer Agencies of New Jersey, it co-hosted on campus the first ever Mid-Atlantic Consumer Protection Conference. The event convened 50 government officials, consumer advocates, attorneys, and business leaders to explore working across state lines. It was a swan song of sorts for D’Urso; in December he handed the reins of Penn CASE to Ben Friedman, C’19.
D’Urso is now preparing for an intense six years. As a 2018 Rhodes Scholarship recipient, he will spend three years at the University of Oxford pursuing a doctorate in public policy. After that, he’s been accepted to Yale Law School. Both stops are benchmarks toward his long-time goals of becoming a federal prosecutor and, ultimately, a policymaker.