NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK: AG HEALEY’S OFFICE PROVIDES GUIDANCE FOR CONSUMERS, HOSTS OUTREAC
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March 7, 201 Emalie Gainey
NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK: AG HEALEY’S OFFICE PROVIDES GUIDANCE FOR CONSUMERS, HOSTS OUTREACH EVENTS ACROSS THE STATE [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]
New Resources to Help Individuals Manage Their Consumer Identities
BOSTON – During the 19th annual National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Maura Healey is offering tips and resources to consumers to help protect themselves from fraud. The AG’s Office will also be participating in consumer education and outreach events across the state.
“Identity thieves continue to find more sophisticated ways to target personal and financial information, so for consumers, identity management can no longer be a spectator sport,” said AG Healey. “An educated consumer is better equipped to identify and steer clear of fraud, which is why we are making more resources available to empower individuals to understand and better manage their consumer identities.”
The AG’s Office fields thousands of consumer complaints annually and has helped many consumers resolve their complaint or get relief. For example, in 2016, divisions in the AG’s Office including CARD, the Consumer Protection Division, the Insurance and Financial Services Division, as well as the Student Loan Assistance Unit, provided help in:
Assisting a disabled combat veteran and his family in getting $54,000 in homeowners insurance claim proceeds released by their mortgage servicer;
Reversing an insurance company’s denial of an auto insurance claim filed by an 81-year-old driver, generating a recovery of $2,185 for the family;
Recovering more than $12,000 in fees paid to an assisted living facility for a consumer who could not move in because of an injury and hospitalization;
Obtaining a repair to a consumer’s vehicle through the replacement of its transmission per the warranty agreement, with $6,350 in savings for the consumer;
Assisting a consumer in recovering $22,720 in premiums based on a misleading life insurance sale;
Helping a student loan borrower in reversing a $37,000 interest capitalization that resulted from a flawed income-driven repayment renewal;
Assisting a homeowner in obtaining a discharge of an improper second mortgage worth about $30,000;
Stopping collections on more than $6,000 in disputed debt that a consumer said had been paid off more than 10 years ago;
Securing a $11,000 refund for a consumer whose boiler system cracked during maintenance and caused a leak.
The AG’s Office is dedicated to stopping fraud and prosecuting those who operate scams or engage in unfair business practices that harm consumers and also has a significant role in educating consumers about their rights.
Recent trends show that identity theft incidents nationwide went up again in 2016. Online commerce makes financial and personal information more vulnerable to cyberattacks, but even brick and mortar retailers have had their state-of-the-art information systems compromised by criminals who are skilled at finding and exploiting weaknesses in a company’s information security measures.
The AG’s Office – building upon the work of other agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – has developed tools and strategies for individuals to take control of their consumer identity; to obtain, correct, or restrict disclosure of information about them which is controlled by credit and specialty consumer reporting agencies.
The AG’s Office advises consumers that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumers have the right to request a free copy of their report from more than 30 specialty consumer reporting agencies that focus on assembling and evaluating select consumer information like histories of employment, rental housing, medical and other insurance policies and claims. Information in these reports can impact decisions business make about the products and services they offer consumers, so it’s important that consumers take advantage of their right to know what is in them.
Much like checking a credit report, consumers can use these tools in advance of a job search or application for an apartment to know if there is any inaccurate information held in their consumer report that could negatively impact their employment or housing prospects and take steps to correct it.
For more information, please see the AG’s Consumer Identity Management section of the website located here.
Last year during National Consumer Protection Week, AG Healey announced the formation of a new specialized consumer division within the office – CARD, the Consumer Advocacy & Response Division. This new division has helped to deliver an enhanced consumer approach and has specialized teams that focus on the most prominent consumer problems, including auto transactions, debt collection, data privacy and identity theft, home improvement, housing, retail sales, and utility bills.
Throughout this week and beyond, CARD and the AG’s Community Engagement Division will offer consumer education events across the state on topics such as identity theft, how to protect yourself from scams, retail rights, and financial literacy.
Consumers who have questions, problems, or complaints against businesses are encouraged to contact the AG’s Consumer Advocacy & Response Division’s consumer specialists at 617-727-8400, or file a complaint on the AG’s website. The AG’s Office has made consumer complaint data available to the public online.