Consumer fraud occurs when a consumer is a victim and a perpetrator is a seller or an advertiser of merchandise. Under certain circumstances, consumer fraud is considered to be criminal fraud.
As long as a fraud is associated with some type of goods or services, it is considered consumer fraud. Consumer fraud may also be described as a deceptive business practice that causes a consumer to suffer financial or other similar types of losses.
A victim of consumer fraud is led to believe that they are engaging in a legal and valid business transaction when they are actually being defrauded in some way. Fraud perpetrated against a consumer is, in general, associated with a false promise or an inaccurate claim that is made to the consumer.
Fraud also includes practices that directly cause the consumer to be cheated out of their money. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for handling complaints against parties that have allegedly committed consumer fraud.
The FTC works with law enforcement to investigate fraud as well as other unfair business practices perpetrated against consumers.
What Are Some Examples of Consumer Fraud?
The term consumer fraud can include a broad range of activities. Common examples of consumer fraud may include, but are not limited to:
- A seller failing to provide merchandise in an adequate manner, such as how a car dealer who sells a lemon car may be found guilty of committing consumer fraud;
- Sending merchandise to individuals without their knowledge and consent and then forcing them to pay for it by threatening to bring legal action against them or ruin their credit score;
- Sweepstakes and lotteries offering a prize if the individual pays a fee and then failing to deliver the prize; and
- Charities or representatives who are pretending to be working for a good cause by asking individuals for donations that are then pocketed or distributed somewhere other than where they originally claimed.
What Is a PC Offer Scam?
An individual may see an advertisement for an inexpensive computer. The advertisement may claim the PC is as low as $199.00.
An individual may even see an ad for a free computer. It is important to keep in mind, however, that things are rarely free.
There may be conditions and restrictions in these advertisements that may end up costing the individual.
What Are Related Internet Offer Scams?
One scam that may be related to a PC scam involves an internet offer scam. There are new United States and state government programs that are aimed at expanding rural broadband internet.
These programs may involve the expansion of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into new areas, resulting in new high speed Internet options for rural consumers. This may be a positive thing, especially if an individual lives in an area where the only viable internet options include satellite or DSL.
It is always a good thing when consumers are provided with real choices for higher quality service at a better price. Unfortunately, these types of situations may be exploited by scammers who are seeking to make a fast buck off of as many innocent individuals as possible.
For example, a telephone scammer may call a resident of a rural area and pose as a representative of a popular internet service provider (ISP). Although the companies used by the scammers and the fake deals that are offered may vary by scam artists and by location, the scams are typically very similar.
An individual should be weary of an offer that seems too good to be true. In many cases, ISPs will contact potential customers to inform them about offers.
The issue lies in the individual’s ability to distinguish between a real deal and an offer from a scammer. If an individual falls for a scam, they will not end up receiving a great deal on their broadband internet service.
Instead, they will end up providing the scammer with enough personal information and financial information for the scammer to steal their identity or clean out their bank account. It is important if an individual receives a telephone call from an individual offering to sign them up for broadband Internet service with a company that is not currently serving their local area, they should be very suspicious.
These scam artists are very clever and their pitches are very easy to fall for. If an individual has any doubts about the offer whatsoever, they should end the call and call the company directly and request to speak with their sales or customer service department to see if they are offering any type of early-bird deals to customers in the area.
If the company is actually offering deals and services in the area, they should be able to help the individual immediately. If they are not actually offering those deals, the individual can at least find comfort in the fact that they did not fall for a scam.
It is important for an individual to visit the official website of the company and obtain their contact information that way. Not every phone number that pops up on a web search is accurate and it may be a scam itself.
What Should I Look out For?
In many cases, these scam offers will require that an individual purchase a bundled internet service contract, which may last a long time, such as 3 to 4 years. The scammer may promise that if the individual signs up for the service, they can obtain a large rebate on the purchase of their computer.
These types of offers, however, may not be as inexpensive as they appear. In addition, details regarding the rebate and the internet service provided may be difficult to find.
What Kinds of Costs Might I End Up Paying?
There are numerous different costs that an individual may end up paying when they agree to buy what is presented as a low cost personal computer, including:
- Up-front costs: An individual will probably have to pay the full cost of the computer up-front. They would then have to send in the rebate themselves;
- It is important to be aware that when applying for a rebate, an individual will have to send in documentation of the sale and apply in writing;
- An individual should also be wary of rebates that only allow the individual to spend rebates on the manufacturer or retailer’s products;
- Internet access: When an individual buys a computer with an Internet service offer, they may end up actually paying more. If they are required to sign up for the Internet service, they may end up paying more than $1,000 over three years. The individual may also have to pay a penalty if they wish to cancel the service; and
- Other costs: An individual should make sure that the other computer components, such as the monitor, that the individual wants are included in the PC offer. Otherwise, the individual may end up paying for them separately.
If an individual believes they have been misled into purchasing a low cost PC, they should contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a consumer fraud complaint.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My PC Offer Scam Problem?
If you have lost a substantial amount of money to a personal computer offer scam, it may be in your best interests to contact a consumer lawyer. Your lawyer can review your case, help you determine if you have been misled and whether or not you may be able to recover compensation for your losses.