Consumer fraud is criminal fraud in a certain setting. In consumer fraud, the victim is a consumer while the perpetrator is either a seller or advertiser of merchandise. As long as the fraud relates to some type of services or goods, it can be considered consumer fraud.
What Types of Activities are Considered Consumer Fraud?
Consumer fraud covers a wide range of activities. A few of the more common scams include:
- Sellers not providing merchandise in an adequate fashion. For example, a car dealer who sells lemon cars may be guilty of consumer fraud.
- Sending merchandise to people (without their knowledge) and then forcing them to pay for it by threatening to bring legal action or ruin their credit ratings.
- Sweepstakes and lotteries – offering you a prize if you pay a "fee" and then not delivering the prize.
- Charities – pretending to be working for a good cause and asking you for a donation.
How Do I Protect Myself from Being a Victim of Consumer Fraud?
There are a few tell-tale signs that should alert you that a sales pitch might be a type of consumer fraud. Common examples include:
- High pressure sales tactics – for example, not taking "no" for an answer or pressuring you to make an immediate decision
- Requesting that you send money upfront
- Requesting personal information such as a credit card number
- Requiring you to call a "900" number to get goods or a prize
- Being very vague or evasive about their name or company
What if I am a Victim of Consumer Fraud?
There are many people and organizations that can help if you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud. Consumer fraud hotlines and websites allow you to explain your situation and file complaints. Experienced attorneys can inform you of your rights, options, and the many consumer protection laws.
Should I Get an Attorney if I am Accused of Consumer Fraud?
A conviction for fraud can result in heavy fines and imprisonment. If you have been accused of consumer fraud, please contact an experienced criminal attorney to learn more about your rights, defenses, and the complicated legal system.