Although many schemes have been around for years, technological advances have only increased the methods in which con artists attempt to deceive consumers around the county. Moore Law viewers called in with their own questions about “Scams & Rip-Offs” as host and local TV journalist Deb Haas and attorney co-host Don Moore were joined by Leslie Kish, the Vice President of Operations at the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau (BBB). “Nowadays, phishing emails and internet scams are a really big deal,” Kish said, adding that some phishing emails—electronic communications designed to trick people into revealing sensitive information by pretending to be a legitimate entity—are even pretending to be from the Better Business Bureau now, and it is important for consumers to check those things out. “Don’t click on links in emails if you don’t know who it’s from.”
Anita in Florence said she had two used vehicles break down within a couple weeks of one another. She had one of the cars “junked” and the other supposedly repaired by a local repair shop, but was still experiencing problems it. She said the shop was not honoring the warranty and was now considering taking the matter to small claims court. Leslie said the BBB might be able to help her in terms of a lawsuit, and Don added that “small claims court is a great tool for some people who have been ripped off.”
“[Small claims court] is designed for people to go without lawyers, so the idea of calling the Better Business Bureau is a great one because often Leslie or the people from the Bureau can tell you whether that’s a reoccurring problem with that business or can help with evidence,” Don said. He added that the small claims court is a great alternative because you do not have to spend a lot of money on it, noting, “You don’t have to have a lawyer, it’s designed for people just like you who feel they’ve been shortchanged in some way.”
Another common consumer concern came from Kieth from Colerain, who called about the possibility of identity theft because of tax papers he said were missing. “If they have your Social Security number, they can open up credit cards in your name, bank accounts in your name, they can get identification in your name, so you do have to be very careful about that,” Leslie said. “If your Social Security number is out there, you want to do all that you can to safeguard that.”
She recommended consumers check their credit reports, noting you can get one free from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once a year at annualcreditreport.com. “Monitor your accounts. Make sure that you’re taking care of your information,” Leslie said. “If you’ve got your tax forms and things, if you don’t need that information anymore, you want to destroy it.”
Leslie also mentioned that the BBB is offering an opportunity to do that for free during the BBB’s Shred Day on April 21 at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Margaret in Cincinnati called about receiving a new cell phone and a text message from a service in which she responded “STOP” to end the subscription, but was billed because she had somehow agreed to “terms and conditions. Leslie said the BBB had been getting calls about this issue “fairly regularly.” “What we’ve found is that sometimes people are clicking on internet pop-ups for things that are asking for their cell phone,” Leslie said, adding that she would check out the company responsible for making the charges to see if there is anything that can be done to approach them.
Near the end of the show, Don noted that Governor John Kasich would be signing House Bill 275 later that day, adding that the bill actually changes consumer rights under the Consumer Sales Practices Act. “It’s something consumers should be aware of because it does weaken their rights in Ohio,” Don said. The Plain Dealer reported that last year, the National Consumer Law Center warned that “Ohio’s consumer law would become one of the weakest unfair and deceptive practices statutes in the country” with the passage of HB 275.
The next episode of Moore Law is Monday, April 9, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. on WXIX-TV, FOX19, when Deb and Don will take viewer questions about “Fighting the Insurance Company.”