|March 5, 2010
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
|en Español||Print Version||Tweet|
TALLAHASSEE, FL – With National Consumer Protection Week beginning next week, Attorney General Bill McCollum today released a list of top consumer issues facing Floridians. The Attorney General urged Florida citizens to become better informed about the scams and fraud currently threatening consumers.
“Well-informed consumers can better protect themselves, their families, and their wallets,” said Attorney General McCollum.
The Attorney General also offered the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from the following scams:
- Timeshare Resales – Timeshare resale scams can occur both at the time of the original purchase and at the time of resale and often promise sales for a listing fee, but fail to deliver. To protect themselves, sellers should consider reselling their timeshare "by owner,” by placing an advertisement in a newsletter or magazine read by potential timeshare buyers, or by listing the timeshare with a licensed real estate broker in the area where the resort is located.
- Foreclosure Rescue Scams – Today, homeowners are being bombarded with advertising from companies claiming they can save homes, reduce mortgage payments, and many other offers. Florida homeowners need to be very cautious and should know that Florida law prohibits any company or individual from charging up-front fees for foreclosure rescue or loan modification services related to foreclosures.
- Debt Settlement – Businesses that are running debt settlement scams promise consumers they can pay off consumers’ debts for a fraction of the amount owed, but instead collected large up-front fees and left customers with little or no money to pay creditors. Consumers should be very wary of companies that make outrageous promises and collect up-front fees.
- Credit Repair – Credit repair schemes involve claims to improve credit or eliminate bad credit and are sometimes part of other operations claiming to negotiate or eliminate debt. Consumers need to be cautious of firms offering debt relief, including debt management, credit counseling and credit card rate reduction services. Consumers should be aware that credit repair companies are not permitted to charge up-front fees.
- Debt Collection – Debt collectors are legally prohibited from lying to consumers or threatening them to collect payments. They are also prohibited from calling after 9:00 p.m. and may not contact consumers at work if they know the consumer’s employer disapproves.
- Identity Theft – Identity theft can frequently occur through stolen mail or over the internet using a technique often referred to as “phishing.” Phishers attempt to convince consumers to provide their personal identification information through emails disguised as a reputable web service or even the consumer’s bank. Once the consumer enters his or her account numbers, the scammer has all the information necessary to engage in costly and devastating identity theft. Consumers should never respond to emails asking for personal identification information.
- Magazine Subscriptions – Consumers complained to the Attorney General’s Office that they often received magazines they did not order or subscribe to and were billed for these undesired items. Consumers should be cautious if they receive magazines or other products for free and should carefully review the terms of subscription and billing to ensure that after a free trial expires, they will not continue to be billed for the product.
- Travel Services – Complaints against travel agencies involved supposed “all-inclusive” vacation packages with hidden consumer fees. Consumers should beware of a hard sales pitch or an offer that sounds too good to be true.
- Health Supplements – Consumers reported that companies were offering “free” trials of products without allowing consumers to cancel their subscriptions before being billed. Consumers were unable to contact the companies by telephone, e-mail or through the company websites to cancel their subscriptions before the trial period ended, and as a result were billed for the supplements.
- Wireless Telephone Issues – Customers reported they were charged for mobile content downloads that they neither knowingly authorized nor desired such as ringtones, music, wallpaper, horoscopes and other material. Online marketers also promoted these downloads as “free”, but ultimately billed customers recurring monthly fees.
The Attorney General’s Office can provide practical tips for consumers on how to make well-informed purchase decisions, avoid scams, protect their personal information and file a complaint if they feel they are the victims of fraud. Consumers who wish to file a complaint may do so by calling the Attorney General’s fraud hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) or by filing a complaint online at http://myfloridalegal.com. Additional information about National Consumer Protection Week is available at http://www.consumer.gov/ncpw.