It’s National Consumer Protection Week! Well, every week is Consumer Protection Week here at Scambook, but this official campaign is a great opportunity to raise awareness for consumer rights and safety tips.
The FTC, a leading resource for consumer protection, describes National Consumer Protection Week as “a coordinated campaign designed to focus on the importance of keeping consumers informed while providing consumers with free resources explaining their rights in the marketplace.”
The campaign is promoting a variety of educational resources covering fraud, identity theft, debt, consumer privacy issues and how to spot scams.
On Wednesday, March 6, consumer advocacy experts will be answering your questions live on Twitter. Just create a Twitter account (if you don’t already have one) and add your voice to the discussion with the hashtag #NCPW. The Twitter Q&A will begin at 2 PM ET, 11 AM PST.
Meanwhile, National Consumer Protection Week is the perfect time to brush up on basic consumer safety everyone should know. Review these 5 Tips to protect yourself from scams and consumer threats:
Tip #1. Google is Your Friend
Eyeing an iPad on that brand new deals site? Thinking about joining an online dating service? Before you order from an unfamiliar retail site or hand over your credit card number for an online membership, do your homework!
Google the product, service, store name or website. Read reviews from previous customers and search for complaints on Scambook. If other people have been ripped off, you’ll be able to learn from their experience and avoid the threat.
With specific products, an Internet search will also show you the average retail price. This will let you steer clear of hot bargains that are actually cold.
Just remember to trust your gut instincts above everything else. A product or online store that’s brand new might not have any negative reviews yet because no one has had enough time to experience their bad business practices.
When you’re shopping online, don’t use public WiFi and always look for a secure “https://” URL on the order page. Use a credit card or a prepaid Visa so you’re protected in case you need to dispute the charge. Which brings us to…
Tip #2. Know When and How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge
Know your rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act! If your credit card is lost or stolen, you can’t be held liable for more than $50 of charges made by the thief.
You can also rightfully dispute credit card charges under the following circumstances:
- If you ordered an item but never received it.
- If you received the wrong item.
- If you were charged multiple times for a single order.
- If you were charged the wrong amount.
- If you returned the item but never received a refund from the merchant.
To dispute a charge, visit your credit card company’s website for online dispute forms or write a letter to the company within 60 days of the initial charge.
Check out our video for more information and a free, customizable letter template you can use.
Tip #3. Watch Out for Debt Collection Scams
Guess what? You’ve also got rights if you have debt. Even if you’ve fallen behind on your payments, you don’t have to take any abuse or harassment from a debt collection agency. Legitimate collection agencies have to follow federal and state rules.
It’s illegal for a debt collection agency to use obscene language, make threats or publish your name on a delinquency list. They’re also barred from falsely misrepresenting themselves — in other words, they can’t call you and say they’re from the IRS or the police. They can’t lie about the amount you owe or threaten you with jail time if you don’t pay up.
If a “debt collection agency” contacts you and breaks any of those rules, watch out. They might be scammers. Report the call to Scambook, the FTC or your State Attorney General. If they threaten you or your loved ones with violence, call the police immediately.
For more details about debt collection scams, watch our video here.
Tip #4. Understand Your Consumer Psychology
Knowing is half the battle. Many psychological traits influence our shopping decisions, leading to impulse buys and over-spending. By being aware of your mindset in the mall, you can avoid deceptive sales tactics as well as retail product scams.
The next time you’re shopping, pause to reflect on your purchase before you check out. Ask yourself some questions:
- Am I only buying this because I’m afraid of missing out on the bargain or letting someone else buy it first?
- Am I buying this because I’ve been shopping for three hours and don’t want to go home empty-handed?
- Would I still buy this if it wasn’t on sale?
For more information on consumer psychology read our article This Is Your Brain on Bargains.
Tip #5. Track Scams and Bad Companies with Scambook Insights
Finally, track the latest scams and bad businesses with Scambook Insights. Scambook Insights is our new real-time analytics tool that shows you what’s trending in consumer complaints.
Get live information about scams and bad businesses organized in easy-to-read charts and graphics available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Explore by complaint submission rate, location or search keyword for the past 30 days, 7 days or 24 hours.
Scammers and malicious companies are always adapting to new technology like the Internet, which has made them smarter and more aggressive. With Scambook Insights, you can arm yourself with more information than ever before and stay one step ahead.
Click here to visit Scambook Insights.
For More Information About National Consumer Protection Week
For more information about NCPW, visit the campaign’s official website at http://www.ncpw.gov/ and stay tuned to the Scambook Blog. We’ll be bringing you more important consumer tips throughout the week and for many more weeks to come.