As National Consumer Protection Week Wraps Up, AGO Reminds Consumers to Arm Themselves with Information
Phoenix, AZ (Friday, March 7, 2014) – As National Consumer Protection Week comes to a close, Attorney General Tom Horne is reminding Arizonans that financial fraud has many different forms (data breaches, identity theft, and telemarketing scams) and providing tips to help consumers protect themselves.
“Scammers often target the most vulnerable people in society, a sobering fact made clear by some of the statistics coming out of our office. We answer more than 165 calls and emails per day on the consumer hotline, and assisted nearly 1,000 consumers through our senior task force number last year,” said Attorney General Tom Horne. “Our Office will continue to investigate and aggressively prosecute those who try to defraud and steal from innocent bystanders, but it is important that people educate themselves so they are protected from this kind of abuse.”
Have You Received An Email Requesting Personal Information?
Phishing scams come in many different (and new) forms. If you receive an email from a financial institution or government agency requesting personally identifying or financial information, do not click on the link. Instead, call the financial institution or government agency and request more information. Also, beware of emails or texts asking you to click on a link to “update your security software” or “fix a problem with your operating software”.
TIP: Do not provide personal information in response to emails or click on links in suspicious emails or texts.
Are You Trying To Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt?
Beware of telemarketers who call and offer to help you pay off or consolidate your credit card debt. In September 2013, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne settled a consumer fraud investigation into Arizona companies National Bankcard Monitor, LLC and Financial Interest Strategies, LLC, and their owner Gino Niccoli. Consumers who answered sales calls were told the company could assist them in negotiating lower credit card interest rates and in obtaining low interest rate credit cards to transfer their balances. Consumers were guaranteed a savings of $2,000 - $5,000 in interest and finance charges for their payment of up to $1,499.00 for the service.
TIP: Always research the company and request written documentation before providing your personal or financial information.
Are You Using Wireless Internet?
Before you use wireless Internet to pay bills or send personal information, be sure to encrypt your wireless router. Most wireless routers are delivered to consumers unencrypted, but your service provider can help you encrypt your router. Be aware that the same problems can arise from unencrypted “hot spots,” where businesses offer free Wi-Fi service. Last year, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Internet giant Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs of its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.
TIP: Be sure to encrypt your wireless router, to password protect your wireless internet and not to send personal or financial information through unencrypted wireless or public internet connections.
Do You Believe You’re The Victim Of Identity Theft?
If you believe that someone used your name and/or financial information to make purchases, obtain utilities without your permission, purchase a vehicle, get a loan, receive medical services or impersonate you during contact with law enforcement, here’s a road map of the steps you can take:
- Obtain a copy of your credit report and check for suspicious activity.
- File an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission and obtain an Identity Theft Affidavit.
- File a report with your local county or city law enforcement agency and retain a copy for your records.
- Notify all three credit reporting agencies and every debt collector that has contacted you.
- Place a security freeze on your credit report.
To file a consumer complaint online, please visit https://www.azag.gov/complaints#consumer. If you have questions or would like to request a complaint form, contact the Consumer Information & Complaints Unit at (602) 542-5763 (Phoenix)/ (520) 628-6504 (Tucson) / or toll free outside metro Phoenix, (800) 352-8431.