Camel Cigarettes

Consumer Protection

Janice Garrett - Director of Consumer Protection Unit

Caroline Smith - Consumer Protection Unit - Hampshire County

Call the Consumer Protection Division  in Hampshire County  at  (413) 586-9225 and Franklin County at (413) 774-3186 if you would like information about your rights and responsibilities before you make a purchase or if you're not able to resolve a consumer problem with a company.

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

  

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

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

_________________________________________________

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

Should you have a complaint, please fill out an e-complaint by clicking HERE to reach the Massachusetts Attorney General's website. The NWDA will receive your complaint from the AGO and contact you to discuss it further. The Consumer Protection Unit does not provide legal advice or opinions.

***

From the Federal Trade Commission:

 

IRS Releases the “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2014; Identity Theft, Phone Scams Lead List

Feb. 19, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, reminding taxpayers to use caution during tax season to protect themselves against a wide range of schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud.

The Dirty Dozen listing, compiled by the IRS each year, lists a variety of common scams taxpayers can encounter at any point during the year. But many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns.

"Taxpayers should be on the lookout for tax scams using the IRS name,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “These schemes jump every year at tax time. Scams can be sophisticated and take many different forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues.”

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

For the list of 12 scurrilous scams, visit: "IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen" 

***

FTC Warns of Utility Bill Scam That Asks for Payment via GreenDot, Paypal or Prepaid Gift Card

 

Imagine receiving a phone call from your utility company saying they’re about to cut off your electricity. The caller ID looks like it might be a legitimate phone number, but you know you’ve paid your bill. The caller says, “I can stop this, but only if you pay me.”

It’s a scam, but there’s a new twist.  Instead of asking you to wire money, a new scam wants you to use GreenDot, buy a prepaid gift card, or use PayPal. Scammers using reloadable debit cards, gift cards, or PayPal is not new, but it’s growing. It lets them get your money in a way that you’ll never get it back.

Scammers can use computers to make it look like they’re calling from one place – when, in fact, they’re someplace else.  If you get a call, email, text, or even a visit from someone telling you to make a payment via PayPal, or to buy a GreenDot card or a gift card, it’s probably a scam.  Call your utility company on the phone number that appears on your bill, describe what happened, and report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission, online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).  The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.  The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

 

FTC Tells Consumers to Hang Up on Tech Support Refund Scams

January 3, 2014

The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers that if they get a call promising a refund for tech support services, it is just a new twist on an old scam.

Tech support scams try to gain consumer’s trust and access to their computer and personal and financial information. Typically, a fraudster calls claiming to be a computer technician from a well-known software company, and says they’ve detected a virus on the consumer’s computer.  Their goal is to trick consumers into giving them remote access to their computer or paying for bogus software they don’t need.

In this latest version, scammers call consumers who may have been victims of an earlier tech support scam under the guise of checking on their “satisfaction” with that service and offering a refund or new service when they express their dissatisfaction. Others may claim a company is going out of business and providing refunds to people who paid for technical support services that will no longer be provided. But it’s all a hoax. Once consumers give their banking or credit card information for a refund, the scammers actually take money from their accounts.

Anyone who gets these types of calls should hang up immediately and file a complaint with the FTC. Consumers who paid for bogus tech support or tech support refunds using a credit card should contact their credit card company and ask to reverse the charges.

Learn more about tech support refund scams in the FTC’s latest consumer blog post, and stay a step ahead of the latest scams by subscribing to Scam Alerts.  

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

From the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation:

What You Should Know Before Renting a Vacation Property

As the temperature rises, school has ended and parents take a break from work, many families are making summer vacation plans. If you’re thinking about renting a vacation property this season, do your homework first.
 
Sometimes properties are not as they are advertised or could be a scam. 
 
Research and compare rentals online. Beware of ads posted on Craigslist and other online classifieds, as these websites are popular with scam artists. Scammers may use fake photos and names, often stolen from other websites. They entice consumers with attractive offers hoping that they won’t research the transaction further. 
 
Be careful if renting from an individual. It is safer to use a reputable rental company or a real estate agent. 
Check out the property owner. Get references from family or friends. Check with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, Attorney General’s Office, and Better Business Bureau to see if there is a history of complaints on file. 
 
Get the address of the vacation rental and use an online map (e.g. Google or Yahoo) to bring up the address. If you can’t find it online, it probably doesn’t exist. Verify the condition and location of the rental property. Look at photos and take a virtual tour online. If possible, visit the property beforehand. Look for cleanliness and be sure that that everything works as it should (i.e. toilet flushes, lights turn on, no leaks, etc.). 
 
Get everything in writing. Always have a signed agreement, no matter how brief your stay. Make sure all verbal 
agreements are included in the rental contract including details about deposits, rules on pets, refunds, and what is included in the cost of the rental such as utilities, internet, etc.
 
Do not pay or put money down until you have carefully read and signed the rental agreement. Never pay via money wire (e.g. Western Union). This is a sure sign of a scam. If at all possible, pay with a credit card, 
which provides some consumer protection if there is a dispute. 
 
For more information about vacation rental properties, click on vacation and travel scams and avoid vacation rental horrors.

IRS Warns of Pervasive Telephone Scam

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country.  We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves.  Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail

Other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

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

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.  Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.  This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail tophishing@irs.gov.

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.

See also: the FTC's Tax-related identity theft

 

Mystery Shopper Scam Strikes Again!

By Amy Hebert, FTC Consumer Education Specialist

It sounds pretty good: you walk into a store like any other customer. Then 20 minutes later, you’re done, ready to write a report that will earn you $50. And then you can do it again.

If Shopper Systems and some companies like it were to be believed, mystery shopping jobs like this were not only widely available, but could generate “insane profit.” All for just $2.95 for training and a week’s trial, then $49.95 a month after that for an up-to-date list of interested retailers — and you’d be free to cancel any time.

But they couldn’t be believed, the FTC says. According to the FTC’s complaint, people who paid to be mystery shoppers found there were few, if any, jobs in their area. And the jobs that did exist paid a lot less than $50. People who tried to cancel found they were still charged $49.95 a month, not knowing they were also enrolled in a second “opportunity” running their own webstore.

The companies and people behind the alleged scam have agreed to settlements with the FTC that ban them from selling business or work-at-home opportunities and require them to surrender assets to the FTC.

Legitimate mystery shopping opportunities are out there, but so are plenty of scams. Don’t pay to be a mystery shopper — information about mystery shopping jobs should be free, and certifications offered are often of little value. Many professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best, and opportunities generally are posted online by marketing research or merchandising companies.

Want to learn more about these kinds of scams and get tips on finding legitimate mystery shopping jobs? Read Mystery Shopper Scams at ftc.gov/bizopps.

***********************************************************