• Thu. May 19th, 2022

These are the tips officials are sharing for Consumer Protection Week

ByCindy J. Daddario

Mar 9, 2022

I’m not a fan of assigning a holiday to every free day, and “National Consumer Protection Week” doesn’t sound very exciting.

But it spurs a mass sharing of the best tips and tools to avoid scams and scams, which I think makes it more useful than National Ice Cream Day.

So, in honor of the sexiest, most practical week of the year, here are some of the resources I’ve seen that will empower you as a consumer.

housing

If you or someone you know is dealing with evictions, rent increases, or housing discrimination, check out my February 10th column on local resources for renters.

I’ve since heard reports from some legal aid organizations that have been overwhelmed, so check that out lawhelpca.org/topic/housing for more options. You can also contact them Sonoma County Tenants Union Hotline at 707-387-1968.

The California Department of Justice encourages victims of such violations to send notices or file complaints to [email protected] In this regard, the agency recently launched a Housing Crisis Strike Force and Housing Portal (oag.ca.gov/housing), which provides a range of resources for renters and homeowners in tight situations.

For California homeowners who are struggling to finance their homes, beware of foreclosure rescue scams. Any foreclosure counselor or credit modification service company that asks for money upfront is doing so illegally, so never agree to pay fees on loans before the services are rendered.

Additionally, officials warn against making your mortgage payments to anyone other than your lender or loan servicer, so beware of mortgage advisors trying to trick you into rerouting payments through them. (You can check if a Foreclosure Advisor is registered at the Attorney General’s Office or if a licensed mortgage lender or servicer docqnet.dfpi.ca.gov/licensessearch/.)

To file a complaint against mortgage loan brokers, you can contact the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation at dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint/ or call 866-275-2677.

Debt & Loans

The state has a number of resources about debt collectors and your rights at oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/debt-collectors. (For example, there are certain rules about harassing calls.) If you receive a debt collection call, request a written notification (a “Validation Notice”) for verification before disclosing any personal or financial information to avoid fraud.

When it comes to robbery loans, experts recommend avoiding payday lenders whenever possible, as interest rates on these loans are usually much higher than credit cards and other types of loans. (The average APR for payday loans is 372%.)

You can look for a payday lender’s license and disciplinary action against them dfpi.ca.gov/local.

Other scams

This year saw the rise of COVID-19 test fraud, a phenomenon our region has not escaped.

Thankfully, as the pandemic has receded and testing is becoming more available again, this is less of an issue now, but as much as possible, stick to county-approved testing locations, lists of which you can always find at covid19.ca.gov/get-local -information/#county-websites.

Another scam to watch out for these days is fraudulent charities. Unfortunately, they pop up in times of urgent need and disasters – like the war in Ukraine – when people want to show support. Don’t let that stop you from sending help, but slow down and do your research.

You can take action, e.g. B. Checking the Registration status of a charity and looking up the ratings of organizations at charitable watchdog groups like the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, CharityWatch or CharityNavigator. Double-check for copycat charities that are similar to well-known ones but have a slightly different URL, for example.

It’s also a good idea to participate in Google fundraisers before donating to see what others are saying. You can report malicious charities at oag.ca.gov/charities/complaints.

Speaking of scammers taking advantage of stressful times with soaring utility bills, keep an eye out for utility bill scams as well. 2021, PG&E allegedly Received more than 11,000 reports of scammers posing as the utility, with customers losing over $600,000 in fraudulent payments.

Watch out for those who demand immediate payment under threat of service disruption or ask for financial information under the guise of offering you a refund or discount. If in doubt, hang up and call PG&E yourself.

More generally, for phone or internet or other scams, AARP has a Fraud Monitoring Network with resources to help anyone spot scams and a hotline (877-908-3360) with fraud specialists who can assist affected victims.

On March 10, at 11:00 a.m., the network will host an event with the Federal Trade Commission. on dealing with the consequences of a scam and tips on recovering lost money. You can register at aarp.cventevents.com/event/390dbc6e-8273-40ac-81e8-fc861c927fe7/summary.

Generally, Californians who have been scammed or scammed can report violations of consumer protection laws to the Department of Justice at oag.ca.gov/report. You can also contact us your local county consumer protection body.

“If you have been taken advantage of by a predatory lender, are facing abusive debt collection practices, have been unlawfully evicted, or have information about any other violation of the law, please file a complaint with my office,” Bonta said in a news release Monday.

“The leads we get from the public help us identify where companies are trying to circumvent the law — and help us hold companies accountable.”

In Your Corner is a new column utilizing watchdog reporting for the community. If you have a concern, tip, or suggestion, you can reach In Your Corner columnist Marisa Endicott at 707-521-5470 or [email protected] On Twitter @InYourCornerTPD and Facebook @InYourCornerTPD.