Consumer Protection


Janice Garrett - Director of Consumer Protection Unit

Caroline Smith - Consumer Protection Unit - Hampshire County

Consumer Protection Unit intern Eli Baer at Greenfield Community College financial literacy "Reality Fair" 

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Facing Foreclosure?

Contact HAPhousing

Hampshire County Office

20 Hampton Avenue, Suite 185, Northampton, MA  01060

(413) 584-8495 • Fax: (413) 586-3571

Hours: M,T,Th,F, 9am-noon and 1-4pm; closed Wed

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Daily Hamsphire Gazette: "DA's Consumer Protection Division increases efforts to help the little guy"

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Consumer Protection video PSAs

 

 

  

 

 

(Click logos to visit CFPB and CPSC websites.)

 

 

 

 

 

  (Click for the latest recalls.)    

 

  

  

 

US. Government's Everyday Guide to Consumer Protection

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MONEY WIRING SCAMS

Money wiring scams continue to hurt our consumers in Western Massachusetts. The scam shows up in many different forms, but they all have one thing in common: the consumer is asked to use a money wiring service to send cash for one reason or another.

Lottery, Sweepstakes, Job applications, Overpayment, Relationship, Mystery shopper, Online auction sales, Apartment rentals, Advance Fee loans, Family emergency or a Friend in Need

SCAMMERS may ask you to send money in order to receive a big cash prize & even give you a Cashier’s Check to cover your “taxes” and “fees."

-You might apply for a job online, and your new “employer,” who you haven’t met, sends you a check to set up your new office, asking you to deposit the money into your private account and wire money to the “main office supply company” to have your office supplies sent to you.

-Some consumers have received a frightening call in the middle of the night from someone posing as their grandchild who’s in trouble and needs money wired to them right away. 

The bottom line is once you deposit the check into your personal bank account, take cash out and wire the money to someone, somewhere-you are responsible for the cash you took out of your account, even if you fell for a scam.

SCAMMERS like to get paid using money wiring services because it’s fast; the money is usually picked up in cash and in person making it hard to recover.

The Office of the Attorney General issued the following press release on the Grandparent Scam

http://www.mass.gov/ago/news-and-updates/press-releases/2012/2012-08-30-grandparent-scams.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Facing  

 

  • Facing Foreclosure?

    Contact the HomeCorps Hotline at (617) 573-5333

    For the Massachusetts Attorney General's Homecorps webpage, click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

Other useful links to Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General programs:

HomeCorps Borrower Representation Initiative

HomeCorps Borrower Recovery Initiative

HomeCorps Crisis Response Innovation Grants

HomeCorps Municipal and Community Restoration Grants

Western Massachusetts Foreclosure Prevention Centers

The Valley Community Development Corporation

Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority

HAPhousing

The Consumer Protection  Unit is one of the local consumer programs throughout the Commonwealth working in cooperation with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

Consumer Protection staff are trained to mediate complaints through an informal process involving letters and telephone calls from the consumer and the business, in an effort to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. If Consumer Protection staff are unable to resolve your complaint, staff members will discuss the option of redress through small claims court, face-to-face mediation or a private attorney.

CONSUMER PROTECTION COMPLAINT FORM

Click HERE to fill out a Consumer Protection Complaint form.

Forms can be submitted using the following methods:

  • Save the completed form to your computer and attach it to an email message and send it to:

NWD.CPU@MassMail.State.MA.US

  • Print out the completed form, and any related documents and mail it to: 
Northwestern District Attorney
Consumer Protection Unit
1 Gleason Plaza
Northampton MA 01060
  • Or Fax to: 413-584-3635
If you have any difficulty filling out the form please contact us 413-586-9225 or email to  NWD.CPU@MassMail.State.MA.US
 
Note: The Consumer Protection Unit does not provide legal advice or opinions.

 

 

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Don't be fooled! The IRS won't call you and make demands, DA Sullivan explains.


Vets targeted by debt collection scams can get help.

How to protect yourself from scams.


Consumer Protection Unit's Janice Garrett and Caroline Smith with Assistant Attorney General Ann Lynch in South Deerfield, Greenfield and Erving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click HERE for more information.

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Five Easy Ways to Spot a Scam Phone Call

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-18, September 2, 2014                                                 

The IRS continues to warn the public to be alert for telephone scams and offers five tell-tale warning signs to tip you off if you get such a call. These callers claim to be with the IRS. The scammers often demand money to pay taxes. Some may try to con you by saying that you’re due a refund. The refund is a fake lure so you’ll give them your banking or other private financial information.

These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may even know a lot about you. They may alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

The IRS respects taxpayer rights when working out payment of your taxes. So, it’s pretty easy to tell when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a sign of a scam. The IRS does not:

  1. Call you to demand immediate payment. We will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
     
  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the chance to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
     
  3. Require you to use a certain payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
     
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
     
  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what to do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to talk about payment options. You also may be able to set up a payment plan online at IRS.gov.
     
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
     
  • If phone scammers target you, also contact the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” to report the scam. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Remember, the IRS currently does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issues. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.govand type “scam” in the search box.

Tips from the IRS

Tips to Protect Your Personal Information While Online

IRS Security Awareness Tax Tip Number 7, January 4, 2016                              

The IRS, the states and the tax industry urge you to be safe online and remind you to take important steps to help protect your tax and financial information and guard against identity theft. Treat your personal information like cash – don’t hand it out to just anyone.

Your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and bank and utility account numbers can be used to steal your money or open new accounts in your name. Every time you are asked for your personal information think about whether you can really trust the request. In an effort to steal your information, scammers will do everything they can to appear trustworthy.

The IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure you understand the dangers to your personal and financial data. Taxes. Security. Together. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

Here are some best practices you can follow to protect your tax and financial information:

Give personal information over encrypted websites only. If you’re shopping or banking online, stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for “https” at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure). Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, the entire account and your financial information could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page of the site you’re on, not just where you sign in.

Protect your passwords. The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack.  Use at least 10 characters; 12 is ideal for most home users. Mix letters, numbers and special characters. Try to be unpredictable – don’t use your name, birthdate or common words. Don’t use the same password for many accounts.  If it’s stolen from you – or from one of the companies with which you do business – it can be used to take over all your accounts. Don’t share passwords on the phone, in texts or by email.  Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for your password.  If you get such a message, it’s probably a scam. Keep your passwords in a secure place, out of plain sight.

Don’t assume ads or emails are from reputable companies. Check out companies to find out if they are legitimate. When you’re online, a little research can save you a lot of money and reduce your security risk. If you see an ad or an offer that looks too good, take a moment to check out the company behind it. Type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, you’ll have to decide if the offer is worth the risk. If you can’t find contact information for the company, take your business and your financial information elsewhere. The fact that a site features an ad for another site doesn’t mean that it endorses the advertised site, or is even familiar with it.

Don’t overshare on social media – Do a web search of your name and review the results. Most likely, the results will turn up your past addresses, the names of people living in the household as well social media accounts and your photographs. All of these items are valuable to identity thieves. Even a social media post boasting of a new car can help thieves bypass security verification questions that depend on financial data that only you should know. Think before you post!

Back up your files. No system is completely secure. Copy important files and your federal and state tax returns onto a removable disc or a back-up drive, and store it in a safe place. If your computer is compromised, you’ll still have access to your files.

Save your tax returns and records. Your federal and state tax forms are important financial documents you may need for many reasons, ranging from home mortgages to college financial. Print out a copy and keep in a safe place. Make an electronic copy in a safe spot as well. These steps also can help you more easily prepare next year’s tax return. If you store sensitive tax and financial records on your computer, use a file encryption program to add an additional layer of security should your computer be compromised.

To learn additional steps you can take to protect your personal and financial data, visit Taxes. Security. Together. You also can read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:

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Consumer RESOURCES

AUTOMOBILES                

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General:                                                                                 

Buying or Leasing a Vehicle

Tips on Used Car Buying

Getting the most from your Car's Warranty

Massachusetts Consumers’ Coalition:

Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Registry of Motor Vehicles          

Center for Auto Safety          

Auto Safety, Recalls, Service Bulletins

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Auto Recalls, Highway & Vehicle Safety Standards, Crash Test

CREDIT AND DEBT

Guide to Consumer Credit

Credit               

Consumer Credit and Fair Debt Collection

Money and Credit

CFPB

Credit and Loans

My Money.gov

CHARITIES

FAQs about Charities

Charities and Charitable Giving

Wise Giving Alliance for Charities and Donors

CREDIT REPORTS

Free Annual Credit Report

COMPUTERS AND INTERNET PRIVACY

Computers and the Internet Privacy and Security

DO NOT CALL REGISTRY

National “Do not Call” Registry

National Do Not Call Registry

Truth about Wireless Phones & the National Do-Not-Call List     

FUNERAL PLANNING

 Consumers Guide to Planning a Funeral

 Funerals- A Consumer Guide

Complying With the Funeral Rule

HOME IMPROVEMENT

Home Improvement

MA Guide to Home Improvement

Construction Supervisor license verification site

IDENTITY THEFT

Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Create an Identity Theft Report

Identity Theft

Taking Charge: What to do if your identity is stolen

Medical Identity Theft

 

LANDLORD AND TENANT INFORMATION

Landlord and Tenant Law

LEGAL

Franklin County Bar Association

Referrals

Hampshire County Bar Association

Referrals

Massachusetts Bar Association Referral         866-627-7577

Dial a Lawyer Program

Free legal questions answered:

1st Wednesday of the month    5:30- 7:30                        (617) 338- 0610

Community Legal Aid

 Legal Aid to Low-Income & Elderly Residents of Western MA

National Consumer Law Center

Advocacy Organization

MA Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations

 

MORTGAGES

Massachusetts Office of Attorney General:     

 Home & Housing

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau                                                                                           Trouble Paying Your Mortgage-Explore options  

 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau                                                                 

Valley Community Development Corporation (Valley CDC):

Building Community through Housing and Business Development 

Franklin County Housing and Redevelopment Center:

Consumer Action Housing Help:

Foreclosure Prevention Guide

Massachusetts Housing Court Department

Frequently Asked Questions

RECALL INFORMATION

US Consumer Product Safety Commission:    

Recent Recalls

SHOPPING RIGHTS

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General:   

Retail Rights

Shopping Rights

VETERANS

Massachusetts Attorney General's Resource Guide for Veterans

WORKPLACE RIGHTS

Workplace Rights & Responsibilities

Documents