It’s hard to believe that COVID-19, the global pandemic, has been with us for over a year now. It’s been a challenging year, to say the least. Americans and citizens of the world alike have gotten used to a new way of living. Families have dealt with many unforeseen changes, and there’s not one person unaffected by the impact of the virus. As experienced Maryland consumer protection attorneys, we at Holland Law Firm can help.
To coincide with the global pandemic, a wave of unscrupulous scammers have sought to take advantage of the challenging circumstances we all face for their personal gain. It’s a sad truth that there are people out there willing to take advantage of those already suffering.
Scammers have set up ways to trick people who are looking for aid and relief into giving them access to their personal information, secure data, and bank accounts – all of this is done under the false disguise of a state or government agency providing aid. Because of this, a national spotlight has been shined on the importance of consumer protections.
Our 46th President, Joe Biden, declared that the week from February 26th- March 6th was National Consumer Protection Week. The significance of the national attention pointed at consumer protections and consumer rights violations cannot be understated.
“National Consumer Protection Week brings together public and private sector organizations that work to educate and protect the American people from marketplace threats.”
– President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
This article will discuss some of the most effective actions consumers can take to protect themselves from fraud and scammers in today’s global economy. We’ll also look at some of the laws and protections in place that keep consumers safe from predatory practices – know that an experienced consumer protection lawyer is always available to help you defend yourself against predatory acts.
Best Practices to Protect Yourself as A Consumer
With people out of work and looking for help, consumer protection attorney, the economic climate right now is in the best conditions scammers could hope for. Scammers prey on people who may already find themselves in desperate need of help, so the pandemic heightened their reach and pool of people to take advantage of. The number of fraud reports submitted to the FTC during the first quarter of 2020 increased by 70% compared to the previous year’s same period!
The silver lining to this increased amount of fraudulent activity is the increased awareness from government and private sectors alike. Consumers are better suited to protect themselves from scammers when educated on the “dos and don’ts” of commerce in 2021.
Do not engage with any suspicious scenarios like:
Too good to be true job offers – There’s been a rise in phony job offers and pyramid schemes in the wake of the global pandemic. If you find yourself targeted for job offers that ask you to deposit checks in return for purchasing supplies or gift cards, be forewarned; the check is very likely fraudulent. These scams will often be disguised as “start your own business” programs or investment schemes.
High-pressure sales associates/reps – There’s an element of salesmanship from all businesses. Still, high-pressure tactics such as overtly-persistent calls and desperate demands for an e-signature are signs of scammers. Any legitimate business transaction will have a paper trail and legal documentation. If anyone contacting you is hesitant to send any information or documentation regarding your purchase or employment, be wary. Don’t ever feel pressured to commit in fear of losing out. The urgency scammers create is meant to induce stress and take advantage of individuals’ fear.
Do take precautions, like:
Research business or agencies that you’ve never heard of before – It’s very effective what some online research can uncover. Businesses/scammers running deceptive operations often try to take advantage of many people at once, and eventually, their schemes are uncovered online. Through reporting to local agencies and the Better Business Bureau, these operations are either shut down or covered in the media/exposed.
One trick is to type the name of the company into Google and then type “reviews” or “scam” or “fraud” or “rip off.” These searches will often yield common complaints against a given scammer. You can also check the business in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Complaint Database here.
If There Are Inaccuracies on Your Credit Report
It’s Time to Consult With a credit report lawyer
Protections for Consumers
A Maryland consumer protection attorney has an in-depth understanding of both federal and state consumers protections laws.
We have two primary agencies responsible for most consumer protections in the United States on the federal level. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission. Together, these agencies have the power to enforce certain consumer protection laws, and they also have educated the public on abusive practice consumers should be aware of.
The Maryland Consumer Protection Act was enacted to keep consumers safe from an unfair and deceptive trade practice. Since its inception, the act has helped tens of thousands of Maryland residents safeguard themselves from scammers and unlawful business practices. Other states have their own versions of the Consumer Protection Act, which you can read about in this 50-State Survey.
At Holland Law Firm, we’ve been protecting consumers from predatory practices since long before the pandemic and will continue to do so after it’s run its course.
Beyond the immediate financial and emotional trauma of being the victim of a scam, it can hurt your credit and have long-lasting repercussions on you as a consumer. But you don’t have to go at it alone, and recovery is possible.