This Week in Orange County March 8 2013Mar 8th, 2013 | By HV Insider | Category: Lifestyle
Whether you’re government, a business, or a private citizen, we all work hard for the money we earn. We all seem to be facing similar challenges these days too – budgets stretched as far as they can go, the need to do more with less, and someone asking for a share of that hard-earned income. Each day we’re faced with sales pitches, get rich quick schemes, financial advice, and can’t miss opportunities. They come via phone, mail, television, email, and pretty much every time you turn on your computer. I’ve even received these dubious appeals via text message.
Many of them sound too good to be true, and, if that’s the case, they probably are warns Orange County Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, Weights and Measures, Charles Mitchell. During National Consumer Protection Week (March 3-9), Commissioner Mitchell and I want to share with you some of the most common scams as identified by the Orange County Office of Consumer Affairs and the New York Attorney General’s Office.
Internet: Make sure websites are secure before providing any personal financial information. Secure website addresses start with “https” and have a symbol, such as a lock. Never respond to emails requesting financial info without checking that your bank, credit card company, etc. is actually requesting the info. Double check by calling the branch you usually do business with – you never know who’s on the other end of an email.
Credit: Know your rights when it comes to debt collection. Debt collectors may not harass consumers, nor provide misleading information – such as claiming to represent a government agency. Anyone with credit problems should contact a non-profit credit counseling agency licensed by the New York State Department of Financial Services for assistance.
Consumer-Related Services: From snow-removal and debris clean-up to home maintenance projects and party planning, we frequently rely on assistance from contractors. Be sure to use a written contract for all services that clearly defines a cost estimate and payment expectations, as well as restrictions and obligations of both consumer and service-provider.
Retail Sales: While gift cards have become very popular, be careful to buy only from retailers you know and trust. If the company you buy from files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card may be worth less than what you paid. Read the rules on the card to know what fees and conditions apply. New rules now provide that money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date the card was purchased, or from the last date any additional money was added to the card. Inactivity fees can also only be charged if the card has not been used for at least one year.
Telecommunications: Check your landline and wireless phone bills for unauthorized third party charges for non-call related services like email, website hosting, discount buying programs or voicemail services. “Cramming,” as this practice is called, can occur when companies trick consumers into allowing such charges through sweepstake entries, surveys, websites, and contests. If you see unauthorized charges on your bill, contact your telephone company to dispute the charges and have them removed
The best way to protect yourself is to keep a tight hold on your personal financial information and be informed and alert with regard to product recalls and scams. For more information, visit the Consumer Affairs section of the County website at www.orangecountygov.com or contact the office at 360-6700
Until next week, wishing you health and happiness,
Edward A. Diana