It's Your Right to File a Complaint
Mar 07, 2022
Consumer Protection Week: Empowering Consumers to Combat 70% Increase in Fraud Losses
Did you know that businesses are prohibited by law from engaging in deceptive or unfair practices in consumer transactions? Yet, abuses occur every day, which is why it’s important to familiarize yourself with your rights as a consumer to prevent yourself, your family, and your friends from becoming victims of misrepresentations, frauds, and scams.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer-protection agency, is partnering with the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPB), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and other organizations during National Consumer Protection Week, March 6 -12, to empower consumers and let them know how to seek recourse if a business or service provider has taken advantage of them. And it’s no surprise that the increase in online sellers and service providers, whose real identity is often difficult to determine, has resulted in more fraud.
FTC Reports Consumers Lost $5.8 Billion to Fraud in 2021
Overall, the FTC received 2.8 million reports of consumers losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, a 70 percent increase over the amount lost in 2020. Imposter scams, followed by online shopping scams, were the most frequently reported categories. Prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries; internet services; and business and job opportunities rounded out the top five fraud categories.
It’s okay to complain if you’ve been wronged, in fact, it’s within your rights, although authorities recommend that you attempt to resolve most disputes directly before filing a complaint with a regulatory agency or local Better Business Bureau. However, it doesn’t make sense to negotiate directly with scammers who’ve deliberately tried to deceive you. It’s wiser to report them to law enforcement or government agencies to prevent them from inflicting more damage.
Although the FTC cannot resolve individual complaints, it uses reports to investigate, bring cases against fraudsters, scammers, and companies using bad business practices, and it shares its reports with 3,000 law enforcers. You may notify the FTC by filing a report at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/.
The FTC’s website lists actions you could take if you become a victim of a scam to attempt to reverse a transaction and get your money back. Please go to https://consumer.ftc.gov for descriptions of common scenarios and the prompt notifications to banks, credit-card companies, and financial providers that might cancel the transactions. (Click on the Scams tab on the Consumer Information page for advice on avoiding and reporting scams.)
Resolving Individual Complaints
There are governmental agencies and non-profit organizations that will help resolve individual complaints:
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The CFPB is a governmental watchdog agency with the mission of protecting the public from deceptive financial products and services. Its website offers answers to frequently asked questions and walks you through the complaint filing process. The CFPB will forward your complaint to the company involved and work to get a response within 15 days. For details, contact https://www.cfpb.gov.
- New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP)
The DCWP enforces New York City’s consumer protection law and uses mediation to help resolve complaints against businesses. Visit https://www.nyc.gov/dcwp or call 311 for a list of industries and issues the department will handle. The department offers a Consumer Assistance Hotline at 800-697-1220. Forms are available in nearly a dozen languages in addition to English.
- New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP)
If you are unable to resolve your dispute with a merchant or service provider, DCP will help you reach a satisfactory settlement but cannot require the supplier to make a price adjustment. DCP cannot intervene if the dispute is the subject of a lawsuit or other legal action. Consumers can file complaints online or through the mail and may download forms in several languages in addition to English. Be sure to include copies of all documents related to your complaint (store receipts, bill of sale, warranties, contracts, cancelled checks, letters to the business). For further details, please go to https://dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection or call 311.
- The Better Business Bureau (BBB)
The BBB is a non-profit organization with a staff of 2,500 and offices in most states and major cities. The organization helps consumers settle disputes related to sales, contracts, customer service, warranties, billings, and refunds. It accepts complaints even if the company that's harmed you doesn't belong to the Better Business Bureau. Contact https://www.bbb.org.
- National Elder Fraud Hotline
The U.S. Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime offers support through this hotline to combat fraud against older Americans and provide services to victims. Call 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311) from Monday through Friday,10AM to 6PM, to receive assistance from a hotline case manager, who will help you report the fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be hosting virtual events throughout the week to educate consumers on several different topics. Click here for more information and a list of events.