How Consumer Fraud Affects You

Post by: Eric Jones | Posted Date: March 23rd, 2017 |

One widely consulted online legal dictionary for non lawyers defines consumer fraud as any one of a number of “deceptive practices that result in financial or other losses for consumers in the course of seemingly legitimate business transactions.” Scenarios in which a person can lose money, get physically injured, or suffer a blow to their own reputation include:

  • Buying a car
  • Making an investment
  • Taking out a loan
  • Purchasing real estate
  • Contracting for services like home repairs or event catering
  • Applying for credit
  • Using a credit card to make a purchase
  • Taking out an insurance policy
  • Donating to a charity
  • Buying a product

The fraud itself can take many forms. The most harmful may be selling dangerous or defective products either knowingly or without providing adequate warnings about risks and safe use. Sellers and service providers can also pull a bait and switch in which they promise one price or product but deliver another that is higher and/or worse.

An especially common form of consumer fraud involves hiding or misrepresenting the fees and terms associated with an agreement. Laws like the Ohio Consumer Sales Practice Act and the federal Consumer Credit Production Act require sellers, lenders, insurance companies, investment brokers, and service providers to make full disclosures of all risks, responsibilities, and charges. Failing to do so leaves the individual or company subject to a criminal prosecution and a separate civil lawsuit filed with the help of a consumer fraud attorney.

Who Is Most at Risk for Falling Victim to Consumer Fraud?

No one should feel completely protected from consumer fraud at all times. Some business transactions do present more risks than others, however. A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) survey conducted in 2012 revealed that nearly 26 million people got scammed during the preceding year. The leading culprits were sellers of weight loss products, sweepstakes, buyer’s clubs, and work-from-home programs.

Summarizing the survey findings in a brief blog post, the FTC assistant director for consumer and business education wrote that “people who made a first-time purchase by internet or telephone after getting a telemarketing call, watching a TV ad or infomercial, or opening a spam email, were three times as likely to be victims of at least one fraud as people who didn’t buy in those circumstances.”

What Options Do You Have if You Suspect Fraud?

Consumer fraud usually hits hard. A product that underwent too little safety testing or arrived with insufficient warnings can poison users, start a fire, amputate a finger or cause a death. Credit card and investment fraud can cost a victim tens of thousands of dollars. Unfair contracts, failure to perform, and bait and switch can leave a person struggling to make good on their own commitments to family members and business clients.

If any of this happens to you, call the police, file a report with the Ohio attorney general’s office, and consider contacting a consumer protection attorney in Ohio. As noted above, fraud is both a crime and a tort—a harm that gives the victim legal grounds for seeking compensation and monetary damages.

You can request a confidential no-cost consultation with a consumer fraud attorney by calling the Jones Law Group at (614) 545-9998 or requesting an appointment online. Reporting fraud and seeking justice can replace much of what you lost while protecting others from dishonest and unscrupulous business practices.

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