Written by Lyndsey Morgan
Consumers spend billions of dollars per year on a wide variety of goods and services. Unfortunately, there are plenty of scams and fraudulent activity that can cause people to lose money and in some cases, even their identity. With the Internet and ecommerce booming, it’s no wonder that some companies and individuals are looking for ways to scam people out of their money. Work at home schemes are a popular choice among fraudsters, as well as spam emails promising you tons of money. Another common form of consumer fraud is identity theft, and thousands of people fall prey to this scam annually. It is important that people be aware of potential fraud, and know what the warning signs are, so they can be better protected. This article will discuss the different types of fraud, ways you can protect yourself, different agencies to contact, and how to file a complaint.
Types of Consumer Fraud
There are numerous forms of consumer fraud, and each one is designed to basically trick people into buying or doing something that in essence takes their money without providing a legitimate thing in return. Work at home scams are common, and promise people lucrative paying jobs, all within the comfort of your own home. They usually ask people to pay a fee, which is non refundable, only to find out the job is not authentic. Telemarketing and prize promotion scams often tell people they’ve won a prize, and ask for their personal information. No prize is delivered, and the scam artist now has that person’s information. This happens a lot with identity theft cases, where people get information from consumers only to use their credit card, birth date, or social security numbers to purchase goods and services without permission.
Miracle health and other products are also examples of consumer fraud. These products make outrageous claims that often end up being bogus. Sometimes, they may claim people can a large amount of weight in a short amount of time, and the consumer finds out later that they do not work at all. Basically, anything that talks people into spending money on something they do not benefit from is a scam. False promises of prizes and lottery winnings lead people to do just about anything including give away their bank account numbers. Sadly, a lot of elderly people fall pretty to these scams.
Fraud Protection Tips
Luckily, there are steps consumers can take in order to avoid becoming victims of fraud. First and foremost, personal information should NEVER be given to anyone over the telephone. If you need to fill out a form online, be sure it is with a trusted site that is encrypted and using a secure server. Do your research when it comes to products that make certain claims before you make the plunge, and never assume you’ve won a contest just because you get an email saying so. If you have not entered that contest, there is no way you could be a true winner.
While there are some legitimate work at home companies, most of them do not ask you to give them money in advance. Be sure you check around and find out if these companies are legal and will pay you for the work you perform. Check with the Better Business Bureau when in doubt of anything. Make sure your PIN numbers and passwords are kept in a secure location and away from wandering eyes, and that they are not somewhere that someone can find and use them. Be wary of offers that sound too good to be true, and try to make large purchases only with a guarantee attached. Most importantly, be sure your personal and private information is kept confidential and safe.
The United States government has several organizations put in place to help protect consumers from fraudulent activity. The FTC or Federal Trade Commission, makes sure that companies are abiding by certain guidelines. The Better Business Bureau is also designed to help ensure companies stay honest. Local attorney generals and consumer protection agencies are also put in place to help assist consumers with fraud and help them make a case to get their money back. These agencies typically allow people to report the incident, provide details, and then wait for a follow up. While not all cases result in the person getting their money back, reporting these incidents can help prevent future ones from occurring.
How to File a Complaint
If you become a victim of fraud, it is important that you file a complaint immediately. Most agencies have online forms, or toll free numbers where you can call and report the problem. Be sure to have handy your personal information, the date of the fraud or transaction, who is responsible, and their contact information if possible. Most of the time, someone will assign a case number to your complaint and then follow up with you shortly thereafter. Be diligent and do your part to make sure that the people or company responsible for the fraud pays. Have a detailed account of what happened written down, so you can clearly state your case.