Attorney General Gansler Releases "Consumer Tip of the Day" in Recognition of "National Consumer Protection Week 2011"
MD ( March. 4, 2011) -In recognition of the 13th annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler will release a “Consumer Tip of the Day” from March 6 - March 12, on his Consumer Protection Division' s Facebook page, available at http://on.fb.me/fRGNnm. Consumers do not need to be a member of Facebook in order to view the page.
“National, state and local agencies are uniting to promote consumer education and encouraging consumers to take full advantage of their rights,” said Attorney General Gansler. “National Consumer Protection Week emphasizes that informed consumers are less likely to be victims of scams.”
Topics to be posted include:
- Identity Theft - When a person uses the name, Social Security number, bank account number, credit card number or other personal identifying information of someone else to commit fraud, it is called “identity theft.” Marylanders may call the Identity Theft Unit at 410-576-6491 or visit www.oag.state.md.us/idtheft for more information.
- Online Shopping Protection - Modern online pirates are busy luring consumers with legitimate looking websites and their “amazing” deals that are actually counterfeit products. Many of these sites look like websites belonging to genuine companies, with corporate advertising, credit card acceptance and enticing graphic design. Purchasing items from these sites may contribute to a criminal network' s source of income for other illegal activities, and the use of these items can be hazardous to YOUR health. Remember: if it' s too good to be true, it probably is; shop on secure websites whose addresses use “https://” rather than “http://”; find out which sites are authorized retail vendors; look for details with product shipping; and be extra careful about ordering prescription drugs online. The Consumer' s Edge #142 contains more specific information on online shopping protection, and is available at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/142.pdf.
- “A Friend in Need” Scam - Consumers may receive an urgent text message or e-mail from someone they know, who needs money wired to them right away. Usually, they claim to be out of town or the country, and either have been robbed or need money for immediate medical attention. The con artists are counting on an emotional response. Contact your friend directly BEFORE you send the money, even if you know they are out of the country. The scammer usually has hacked into your friend' s e-mail account and sent the message to all of the contacts. For more information on this and other technologically advanced scams, visit http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/135.pdf.
- Debt Settlement and Debt Management - Consumers often mistake the two, but it is important to know the difference. Debt management companies are required to be licensed in Maryland and allow consumers to consolidate their debts into a single monthly payment, which is then distributed to the consumers' creditors. Debt settlement companies are not licensed and offer plans that may be riskier. Regardless, consumers should be skeptical of any savings promised by questionable ads. Consumers may go online at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/134.pdf for more information.
- Credit Repair Scams - At a time when more and more people are struggling to keep their heads above water, credit repair scams flourish. You can only re-establish good credit by paying off your current debt and then showing, over a period of years, that you are able to pay your bills on time. It is a good idea to check the accuracy of your credit report periodically. Consumers can obtain a free copy of their credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies through www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. For more information on credit repair scams, Marylanders should visit http://www.oag.state.md.us/consumer/tip4.htm.
- “Free Trial” Offer Scams - Many Marylanders continue to fall for ads offering free trials of teeth whiteners and acai health or weight loss supplements. They claim a “no-risk, money back guarantee” trial period but they neglect to make it clear that they will charge your credit card on a monthly basis if you do not cancel within a certain number of days after the initial order. Consumers have complained that, when they do try to cancel, no one is available to take their calls or they are put on hold for more than an hour. If you' ve become a victim of a free trial scam, contact your credit card company, and ask it to remove the charges and block future charges. For more information on “free trial” offer scams, visit http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/freetrials.htm.
For more information on the featured topics, consumers should contact the Office of the Attorney General at 410-576-6300 or toll-free at 1-888-743-0023. They may also visit the Attorney General' s website at www.oag.state.md.us. For more information about NCPW, visit www.ncpw.gov.