For Immediate Release - February 27, 2015

AG’s Office to Participate in 17th Annual National Consumer Protection Week

Consumer Education Events Scheduled Statewide; AG’s Office to Provide Tips on How to Avoid Fraud, Scams and Identity Theft

BOSTON – Urging Massachusetts consumers to be vigilant in protecting themselves from potential identity theft and scams, Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office is participating in the 17th annual National Consumer Protection Week through a series of educational events throughout the month. The AG’s Office will hold workshops on a number of topics including data privacy and financial literacy, with a focus on how consumers can best protect themselves and their wallets.

Throughout National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), the AG’s staff, including many from the Public Inquiry and Assistance Center, will offer a series of presentations, workshops and informational tables across the state to help consumers make more informed financial decisions. The AG’s Office fields thousands of consumer complaints annually and provides voluntary mediation services to resolve disputes with businesses. In 2014, the AG’s Public Inquiry and Assistance Center, along with Local Consumer Programs and Face-to-Face mediation programs that are funded by the office, handled more than 14,300 cases resulting in relief of more than $8.8 million for consumers.

“The AG’s office is the people’s law firm and we are here to help arm Massachusetts residents with the information they need to make informed decisions about a host of consumer issues,” AG Healey said. “We are committed to engaging with residents and businesses across the Commonwealth, and National Consumer Protection Week is a great platform to remind people of the tools they have to safeguard their identity and finances, and make use of the services and assistance our office will continue to provide the public.”

The AG’s Office offers the following advice on how consumers can protect themselves:

  1. Read it. Whether buying a home or a car or signing up for a gym membership, consumers will be asked to sign a contract. It is important they take the time to read the contract because they will be held to the terms of the agreement. Consumers should not sign the contract unless they fully understand it. They should make certain to get any promises or guarantees in writing.
  2. Sleep on it. Never make a significant purchase on an impulse. Consumers should ask themselves: (1) is the product or service really needed, (2) is it appropriately priced, and (3) am I buying it from a reputable merchant? Consumers should discuss the purchase with people they trust and look for complaints about the business online. Moreover, as the saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
  3. Track it. Consumers should monitor bank and credit card accounts regularly for any suspicious activity. You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228 for more information. Also consider placing a “security freeze” on your credit report to prohibit the release of any information from your report without your written authorization. A security freeze differs from credit monitoring in that it prevents new lines of credit from being opened without your authorization.
  4. Guard it. Wallets and purses are a treasure trove for identity thieves. Consumers should carry only those items needed to transact daily business and keep items like Social Security Cards, blank checks, passwords, and pin numbers in a secure place. Consumers should always verify that they are dealing with a reputable merchant and look for secure websites that have a URL that begins with “https://” when doing business online. 
  5. Hang it up.  Social Security numbers or bank account information should never be given out over the phone. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals who are eager to scam unsuspecting consumers. Similarly, consumers should be wary of emails or messages asking for updates on personal information and they should make sure anti-virus software and spyware are up-to-date.

The AG’s Office in Boston, along with regional offices located in Springfield, Worcester and New Bedford, offer many services that can help consumers with their problems, questions, and concerns, along with materials and information available on the website about debt collection, credit reporting, credit card costs, landlord/tenant rights, retails rights, identity theft, gift certificates and consumer credit.

In her inaugural address, AG Healey announced the creation of a new Division of Community Engagement to bring to life and action her values of responsiveness, inclusion and integrity, and ensure that the public understands the breadth of services and assistance available through the office. If you have a consumer complaint, you may contact the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry & Assistance Center Hotline at (617) 727-8400, or file a complaint on our website.

During National Consumer Protection Week, staff will be available at the following informational events across the state:

Monday March 2
Central Square Post Office
770 Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02139
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 11:00AM-1:00PM
Who: Cambridge Consumers’ Council

Western New England University
1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA 01119
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 1:00PM-4:00PM
Who: Springfield Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information

Tuesday March 3
VA Hospital Brockton
940 Belmont Street, Brockton, MA 02301
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 11AM-3PM
Who: MASSPIRG Consumer Action Center and AGO Staff

Father Bill's and Mainspring
Stonehill College, North Easton, MA 02357
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: For-Profit Schools
Time: 11AM-12PM
Who: Greater Brockton Center for Dispute Resolution and AGO Staff

Springfield City Hall Atrium
36 Court Street, Springfield, MA 01103
Event Type:  Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 9AM-1PM
Who: Springfield Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information

Wednesday March 4
Teamsters Hall
330 Southwest Cutoff #201, Worcester, MA 01604
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: For-Profit Schools
Time: 9:30AM-12:30PM
Who: AGO Staff

Bunker Hill Community College 
250 New Rutherford Ave, Charlestown, MA 02129
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 11AM-3:00PM
Who: AGO Staff

Worcester Senior Center
128 Providence Street, Worcester, MA 01604
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 11AM-2:00PM
Who: AGO Staff

Porter Square Post Office 
1953 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 11AM-1PM
Who: Cambridge Consumers’ Council

Arlington Senior Center
27 Maple Street, Arlington MA
Event Type: Presentation 
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 11:30AM-12:30 PM
Who: Medford Consumer Advisory Commission

Thursday March 5
VA Hospital West Roxbury
1400 Veterans of Foreign Wars Parkway, West Roxbury, MA 02132
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer awareness, Veterans issues, non-profit school/loans and mortgage information
Time: 11AM-3PM
Who: AGO Staff

Worcester Public Library
3 Salem St, Worcester, MA 01608
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer awareness, Veterans issues, non-profit school/loans and mortgage information
Time: 11AM-2PM
Who: AGO Staff

Friday March 6
Harvard Square Post Office
125 Mount Auburn St. Suite 1, Cambridge, MA 02138
Event Type: Information Table                
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 1PM-4PM
Who: Cambridge Consumers’ Council

Saturday, March 7
Kathryn P. Stoklosa Middle School
560 Broadway Street, Lowell, MA
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 11:00AM-2:00PM
Who: Middlesex Community College Law Center 

Central Square Post Office
770 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02139
Event Type: Shred Day
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 10:00AM-2:00PM
Who: Cambridge Consumers’ Council and AGO Staff

Tuesday, March 10
Braintree Dept. of Elder Affairs 
71 Cleveland Avenue, Braintree, MA 02184
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Scams/ID Theft
Time: 11:00AM-12:00PM
Who: MASSPIRG Consumer Action Center  and AGO Staff

Thursday, March 19
Methuen Senior Center
77 Lowell Street Methuen, MA 01844
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Scams/ID Theft
Time: 10:30AM-11:30AM
Who: Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. Consumer Protection Program & AGO Staff

Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation’s Top 5 Consumer Complaint Event
State House Nurses' Hall (second floor)

Event Type: Press Conference
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Who: AGO Staff

Wednesday, March 25
The Clark House
22 Lessey St, Amherst, MA 01002
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 2:00PM
Who: Northwestern DA and AGO Staff

 

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