CT Department of Consumer Protection

This, the last of a four part series published to coincide with the National Consumer Protection Week, March 1-7 (NCPW), focuses on the CT Department of Consumer Protection (CTDCP). Since so many of our members reside in Connecticut, it just seemed appropriate.

The three previous articles:

CTDCP: Mission Statement: To ensure a fair and equitable marketplace, safe products and services for consumers in the industries that we license, regulate and enforce.

In a nutshell, the CTDCP looks out for consumers by the following:

We License: Each year, the Department of Consumer Protection issues over 200,000 licenses, registrations, and permits for more than 200 types of jobs and businesses, including pharmacies, liquor stores, casinos, mobile home parks, electricians, home improvement contractors, lottery agents and real estate brokers, to name just a few. We also oversee food and beverage industries, to ensure safety and wholesomeness. We regulate gasoline retailers and home heating fuel dealers, and oversee the production and distribution of all prescription medication in the state.

We Regulate: We enforce many federal and state laws, investigate consumer complaints and mediate disputes between consumers and businesses. The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act gives us broad authority over unfair business activity and offers the possibility of financial restitution for consumers who have been unfairly treated. The Pure Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the State Child Protection Act and the Weights and Measures Act also help us safeguard residents from harmful products and from unfair or dishonest treatment.

We Monitor: To protect citizens from unfair businesses and unsafe products, we continually monitor the marketplace and remove tainted, fraudulent, and dangerous products from store shelves. We inspect gasoline pumps, scales and all measuring devices used in business to ensure their accuracy. We prevent the illegal sale or prescribing of prescription drugs, and we work to put scam artists out of business and to keep alcoholic beverages away from minors and intoxicated persons. We also ensure the integrity of all forms of legalized gaming.

We Protect: A written complaint is the first step a consumer must take to alert us of a problem. We carefully review each complaint, investigate as needed, and work to find a solution that restores fairness, ensures legal compliance, and wherever possible and appropriate, provides monetary restitution to the consumer.

Wow!
That’s a pretty broad sweep of responsibility. There’s no way that we could tell you all about it, except by republishing their web site, and nobody wants that.

But Be Informed!
Still, most everyone at sometime or other has need for services and products from providers that CTDCP regulates and monitors, so it really isn’t a bad idea to have a working knowledge of the CTDCP structure and what regulations it applies to protect us, the Connecticut consumers. So, read on for a short overview of the CTDCP organization and how it protects us. Not a bad idea to bookmark their web site as well: CTDCP. Continue reading

Malware Can Hurt – Protect Yourself

Malware is short for “malicious software.”  It includes viruses and spyware that get installed on your computer, phone, or mobile device without your consent. These programs can cause your device to crash and can be used to monitor and control your online activity. Criminals use malware to steal personal information, send spam, and commit fraud.

Today’s article focuses on Malware and how to protect yourself. This is the third in a series of four articles in support of NCPW logoNational Consumer Protection Week (NCPW).This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out more.

First two articles:

Today’s material is taken the government site “OnGuardOnline.gov“, which is a federal government website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online.  Continue reading

Identity Theft – Yes It Can Happen To You!

EveNCPW logory year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW partners, and order free FTC materials.

Tri-Town Apple Is On Board
We’re getting with the program and will publish four articles under the banner of consumer protection, beginning last week with an introduction to NCPW. This article focuses on perhaps the most important topic, Identity Theft.

It Can Happen
If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 12 million cases of identity theft in the U.S. during 2012. If you do the math, that’s one every 3 seconds!

“Consumers and institutions are now starting to act as partners—detecting and stopping fraud faster than ever before. But fraudsters are acting quicker than ever before and victimizing more consumers. Consumers must take data breach notifications more seriously and maintain vigilance to safeguard personal information, especially Social Security numbers.” Jim Van Dyke, CEO of Javelin Strategy & Research

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) views Identity Theft as a serious threat:

Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation – and it can take time, money, and patience to resolve. – FTC Taking Charge

This can happen to you!

Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief might even file a tax return in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest. – FTC

So what should we do to protect ourselves?
The FTC provides a thorough list of steps that everyone should be aware of:

  • First of all there are a number of precautions that we all can follow to lower the risk of having our identity stolen.
  • Secondly, monitor key information:
    • Review Your Credit Reports – You have the right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the 3 nationwide credit reporting companies.
    • Read Your Account and Billing Statements.
    • Review Your Explanation of Medical Benefits.
    • Respond Quickly to Notices from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • If it happens, you want to minimize the impact and rectify the damage as quickly as possible. The FTC has published a very complete booklet, “What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen“. In it are critical first steps you should take:
    • Place an Initial Fraud Alert
    • Order Your Credit Reports
    • Create an Identity Theft Report
  • Beyond these very important first steps are many other actions you may want to take, for example filing a FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. There are sample forms and letters to help you communicate with the many financial institutions and agencies  if your wallet or other information

Obtain a Copy
It would not be a bad idea to have a copy of this document in your possession. They are available from FTC, free. Or the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union has a supply. Stop by and pick up a copy.

Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union
61 Jesup Road
Westport, CT 06880

Be Prepared
In a nutshell, Identity Theft is very real. It is very serious. It very well can happen to you, especially if you are not taking all precautions. But even if you do take the best precautions, it may still happen to you. So be prepared, obtain a copy of the FTC booklet “What To Do I Your Identity Is Stolen“.

Being prepared will cost you nothing. Being ill-prepared could cost you really serious time, money and worry.

Was This Helpful?

We hope this post helpful. Let us know, leave a comment. Tell us what topics would most help you. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading the Tri-Town Apple.

National Consumer Protection Week, March 1-7

We received a newsletter last week from the FTC. Among the items highlighted was a notice about the National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), which begins  March 1. Since Tri-Town Apple’s purpose is to provide useful and beneficial information to the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union  membership, it seemed appropriate to look into this. We had never heard of the NCPW. Here’s what we found:

EveNCPW logory year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW partners, and order free FTC materials.

We discovered a vast collection of resources on the web, made available by about 75 government agencies (federal, state & local) and other organizations, such as the AARP & Consumers Union (part of Consumer Reports). We are going to focus on this subject over the next four weeks, but there is no way we can even begin to bring breath and depth of this information to light here. Today’s article is the introduction. We’ll cover three of these topics  in the next three articles.

We strongly urge you to take a quick look at the summarized list of topics below. If one or more of these topics relates to a concern or question you have, click here or on the image below for more information.

ncpw.01

Was This Helpful?

We hope this post helpful. Let us know, leave a comment. Tell us what topics would most help you. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading the Tri-Town Apple.

 

 

Managing Someone Else’s Money

Millions of Americans are managing money or property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. This can be very overwhelming. But, it’s also a great opportunity to help someone you care about, and protect them from scams and fraud.
Naomi Karp – CFPB

Indeed, many of us at sometime must manage the financial affairs of a parent, another relative or close friend. It’s challenging enough to manage one’s own finances. Taking care of someone else’s financial assets and managing expenses can be downright daunting.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides four easy-to-understand booklets to help financial caregivers. The Managing Someone Else’s Money guides are for agents under one of four different circumstances. These are available as PDF documents or print copies can be ordered.

  1. Powers of Attorney
  2. Court-appointed Guardians
  3. Trustees
  4. Government Fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries.)

These Guides are to help someone who has this responsibility now, or may in the future. They are not for legal advice. More information is available on the CFPB web site Financial Protection for Older Americans, including the print copy ordering.

The guides are written for the “everyday” person and are easy to read and understand. A portion of the “Powers of Attorney” is reprinted below to provide a sense of what to expect. Continue reading

Guide for Seniors: Protect Yourself Against Investment Fraud (SEC)

 Senior citizens are the number one target of investment con artists. The files of state securities agencies are filled with tragic examples of senior citizens who have been cheated out of life savings, windfall insurance payments, and even the equity in their own homes.

Illegal telemarketing is a crime, and fraudulent telemarketers are criminals. There are an estimated 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations bilking thousands of victims every day. This fraud adds up to at least $40 billion annually, according to Congressional surveys. Additionally, surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons indicate that over one-half of those victims are age 50 or older.
Allan Wilson, South Carolina Attorney General

But there are ways senior citizens can protect themselves. Several government offices have published guidelines to help seniors protect themselves (and it’s not bad advice for those of any age). Reprinted below is the content from a booklet offered free of charge by the SEC and can be seen here. Other places to look are:

How To Avoid Fraud

Seniors are often the target of fraud. However, with some basic understanding of how scam artists work, you can avoid fraud and protect your hard-earned money. Learning how to invest safely can mean a huge difference in your retirement years.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to tactics of scam artists who are “nice” or attempt to develop a false bond of friendship. Scam artists prey on seniors who are polite to others and have difficulty saying “no” or feel indebted to someone who has provided unsolicited investment advice.

WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED?

Ask questions and check out the answers.
Fraudsters rely on the fact that many people simply don’t bother to investigate before they invest. It’s not enough to ask a promoter for more information or for references—fraudsters have no incentive to set you straight. Savvy investors take the time to do their own independent research and talk to friends and family first before investing. Make sure you understand the investment, the risk attached, and the company’s history. And remember, if the product sounds too good to be true, it is!

Continue reading

Your Credit – It’s Important II

Why It’s Important

Good credit is necessary if you plan to use credit to make a major purchase, such as a car or a home, or want to be able to take advantage of the convenience credit can provide. The importance of good credit also extends beyond purchases, in that it may be used by potential employers and landlords as part of the selection process.  Experian (one of the three national credit reporting companies)

Most people understand that good credit is important but often they do not know how lenders determine their credit rating or how to protect their credit. This article is the second of two addressing these two important issues:

  1. First Article: How is your credit rating determined and how can you secure a good credit rating?

  2. This Article: How can you protect your credit and your identity from mistakes, fraudulent use and theft?

FTC Consumer Information Web Site:

This web site offers a number of articles with useful information for consumers, including important information about personal credit. We’ll reprint the highlights here, but we strongly encourage you to visit the site, by clicking here.

In our first article in this series of two, we discussed the importance of credit reports and scores, and how to obtain a copy of your credit report on a regular basis, (click here). But suppose you find a mistake or inaccuracy in your credit report. It happens! And it could have a significant negative effect on your credit!  What should you do?

Continue reading