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:
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.
June 22, 2016
Here are some valuable reminders for everyone:
- Use multi-factor authentication, when it’s available.Multi-factor authentication adds another layer of protection against attacks. What’s multi-factor authentication? To log in, you must combine something you know (like a password), with an additional factor, which is usually something you have (like a code texted to a mobile phone) or something you are (like a fingerprint). More and more companies are offering it.
- Make your password long, strong and complex. That means at least twelve characters, with three different “character classes” (uppercase, lowercase, numbers, symbols). It’s best to put non-lowercase letters in the middle of your password. Also, avoid common words, phrases or information in your passwords. And if you’re not sure if you’ve been affected by recent breaches (such as LinkedIn, Myspace and Tumblr), it’s safest to change your passwords.
- Select security questions where only you know the answer. Don’t use questions whose answers can be found through online public records searches – like your birthplace or your mother’s maiden name. Don’t use questions with a limited number of responses that an attacker can easily guess – like the color of your first car.
If your username and password have been exposed in a breach, take these steps right away:
- Change your password. If possible, also change your username. If you can’t login, contact the company. Ask them how you can recover or shut down the account.
- If you use the same (or similar) password for other accounts, change them too.
- Check your accounts. If the password and username were for a financial site – or even if a credit card number was stored on the site – look for charges you don’t recognize.
For more tips, check out the FTC’s advanced password tips and tricks and our guidance on computer security. If your personal information is misused, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a personal recovery plan.
IRS Warns Consumers of Possible Scams Relating to Orlando Mass Shooting
Today, the FTC and the state of Florida announced a lawsuit against Life Management Services, a company that the FTC says is behind hundreds of thousands of these calls.
According to the FTC, Life Management Services swindled people out of their money by offering two types of phony debt relief: credit card interest rate reduction services and credit card debt elimination services. The company promised lower interest rates or government funds to pay off debt, and asked people to make initial payments ranging from $500 to $20,000. But almost no one got the help that was promised.
This is one of six recent FTC cases that focus on illegal robocalls. How does the FTC build these cases? One critical tool is the FTC’s honeypot -- a large bank of phone lines designed to attract robocalls. That lets FTC investigators interact with robocallers, record the calls, and make undercover purchases. The FTC uses its honeypot to identify companies placing illegal calls and collect evidence of their illegal activities. It was particularly useful in the Life Management case announced today.
So, what do you do if you get another unwanted robocall?
- Hang up. Don’t respond in any way. Pressing buttons to get you taken off a list could result in more unwanted calls.
- Block the caller’s number. You have a few options forblocking unwanted calls, including call-blocking devices, mobile apps, cloud-based services, and services provided by your phone carrier.
- Report it to the FTC at www.donotcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222.
Read on for more info and tips about robocalls.
Do you have a lot of student debt? Wish it would disappear? You’re not alone. Scammers know that people are struggling with debt. They’re targeting borrowers with phony student loan debt relief schemes that can make things worse.
Today the FTC and the State of Florida announced lawsuits against two student loan debt relief schemes — Consumer Assistance Project and Student Aid Center. The FTC also announced a settlement in a case we wrote about earlier this year.
According to the FTC, Consumer Assistance Project and Student Aid Center promised to get people’s loans forgiven or significantly reduced. Consumer Assistance targeted people online and over the phone, claiming it would get relief through government programs or by disputing loans. Student Aid Center used radio ads, text blasts, and featured ads in search results to promote “Obama Loan Forgiveness.”
But people who paid the companies didn’t get their loans forgiven or reduced. At best, the companies got people’s loans put into deferment or forbearance, where loan payments are postponed but the interest owed on them can keep growing. Student Aid Center made some situations worse by telling people to stop contacting their lenders and pay the company instead. People often ended up paying thousands, but didn’t get the promised relief.
Student loan forgiveness programs are available in very limited circumstances. You can apply for debt relief yourself; you don’t need to pay a company. The FTC has new education materials to help borrowers:
- Student Loan Debt Relief explains how to spot a debt relief scheme, and what people struggling with student loans can do themselves.
- Maria and Rafael Learn the Signs of a Debt Relief Scamtells the story of a couple trying to repay debt they accumulated for their daughter’s college education. It’s the latest in a series of graphic novels to raise awareness about scams targeting Latino communities.
- This list shows every company and individual ever banned from providing debt relief and mortgage assistance relief services by an FTC order.
Your phone rings. You recognize the number, but when you pick up, it’s someone else. What’s the deal?
Scammers are using fake caller ID information to trick you into thinking they are someone local, someone you trust – like a government agency or police department, or a company you do business with – like your bank or cable provider. The practice is called caller ID spoofing, and scammers don’t care whose phone number they use. One scammer recently used the phone number of an FTC employee.
Don’t rely on caller ID to verify who’s calling. It can be nearly impossible to tell whether the caller ID information is real. Here are a few tips for handling these calls:
- If you get a strange call from the government, hang up. If you want to check it out, visit the official (.gov) website for contact information. Government employees won’t call out of the blue to demand money or account information.
- Don’t give out — or confirm — your personal or financial information to someone who calls.
- Don’t wire money or send money using a reloadable card. In fact, never pay someone who calls out of the blue, even if the name or number on the caller ID looks legit.
- Feeling pressured to act immediately? Hang up. That’s a sure sign of a scam.
Want more tips for avoiding scams? Check out 10 Ways to Avoid Fraud.
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.
Five Easy Ways to Spot a Scam Phone Call
Tips from the IRS
Tips to Protect Your Personal Information While Online
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