For Immediate Release - March 03, 2016

AG’S Office Announces New Specialized Consumer Division Ahead of Annual National Consumer Protection Week

New Division Will Offer Improved Assistance to Consumers; AG’s Office to Hold Consumer Education Events Statewide

BOSTON – Ahead of the 18th annual National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Maura Healey today announced the creation of the Consumer Advocacy & Response Division (CARD), set up to provide highly-skilled assistance to individual consumers seeking help from the Attorney General’s Office.

“Our office is dedicated to delivering the highest quality assistance to consumers across Massachusetts. This new division will allow our office to better protect people from fraud, unfair business practices, and consumer abuse,” AG Healey said. “We will enhance our approach to direct consumer assistance, expanding our reach across the Commonwealth, and re-doubling our efforts to make sure consumers are armed with the knowledge and information they need to avoid scams and other predatory practices.”

During National Consumer Protection Week, CARD and the AG’s Community Engagement Division will offer consumer education events across the state on topics such as identity theft, how to protect yourself from scams, retail rights, and financial literacy.

CARD combines the staff and resources from the AG’s Public Inquiry and Assistance Center, HomeCorps (the AG’s foreclosure prevention program), and the Elder Hotline. Staff can directly assist consumers in working with businesses to resolve disputes, answer questions, offer referrals to appropriate organizations or government agencies, and provide information on other available services and community-based consumer programs.

While CARD staff is available to review any consumer issue, the division has been organized into specialized teams that focus on the most prominent consumer problems. These teams address the following issues:

  • Auto transactions (purchase and financing)
  • Debt collection
  • Data security and identity theft
  • Home improvement contracts
  • Housing (landlord/tenant and foreclosure prevention)
  • Retail transactions
  • Utility bills

In addition, CARD will have a group of consumer specialists dedicated to assisting vulnerable populations including the homeless, immigrants, veterans, and elders.

The AG’s Office fields thousands of consumer complaints annually and in 2015 handled more than 2,600 cases resulting in more than $6 million in relief for consumers. For example, the AG’s Office provided help in:

  • Obtaining a more than $5,000 refund from a car dealer who sold a used car with serious defects to the consumer;
  • Assisting a military veteran to resolve a disputed car loan with an outstanding balance of more than $5,000;
  • Getting a debt collector to stop pursuing uncollectable debts worth over $9,000;
  • Securing a refund of nearly $2,000 from a cellular phone carrier for disputed charges;
  • Getting power restored to a nine-unit property after a dispute arose between the landlord and the power provider.

Consumers with problems are encouraged to contact CARD’s consumer specialists at 617-727-8400, or file a complaint on the AG’s website. The Elder Hotline operates as part of CARD and is staffed by trained specialists who are knowledgeable about problems that are more common for older Massachusetts residents and can be reached at 888-243-5337.

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

Friday, March 4
 

Erving Senior Center
1 Care Drive, Erving, MA 01344
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: How to protect yourself against scams
Time: 12:30PM-1:30PM
Who: Northwestern DA’s Consumer Protection Office

Saturday, March 5

Kingston Elementary School
150 Main Street, Kingston, MA 02364
Event Type: Early Childhood Fair
Topic: Information for families with young children
Time: 10:00AM-12:00PM
Who: South Shore Community Action Council’s Consumer Aid Program

Burlington Marriott Hotel
One Burlington Mall Road, Burlington, MA 01803
Event Type: Convention
Topic: Identify Theft
Time: 1:30PM-2:30PM
Who: Bay State Council of the Blind Convention

Monday, March 7

Framingham Council on Aging
535 Union Avenue, Framingham, MA 01702
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Retail Rights
Time: 11:00AM-12:00PM
Who: AGO Staff/Consumer Assistance Office - Metro West, Inc.

Catholic Charities/Haitian Multiservice Center
185 Columbia Road, Dorchester, MA 02121
Event Type: Boston Community Action Hours
Topic: Consumer Awareness/Intake Processing
Time: 5:00PM-7:00PM
Who: AGO Staff

YWCA of Central Mass
1 Salem Square, Worcester, MA 01608
Event Type: Worcester Community Action Hours
Topic: Consumer Awareness/Intake Processing
Time: 5:00PM-7:00PM
Who: AGO Staff

Western New England University, St. Germain Building
1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA 01119
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 1:00PM-3:00PM
Who: Springfield Mayor's Office of Consumer Information

Tuesday, March 8

Pittsfield Post Office
212 Fenn Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 12:00PM-1:00PM
Who: Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority

Wednesday, March 9

West Roxbury VA Hospital – Building 3
1400 Veterans of Foreign Wars Pkwy, Boston, MA 02132
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 10:00AM-2:00PM
Who: AGO Staff

Boston City Hall – Main Lobby
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 10:00AM-3:00PM
Who: Boston Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing Division

Sandisfield Council on Aging
66 Sandisfield Road, Sandisfield, MA
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Elder Issues, Scams & Schemes
Time: 11:00AM-12:00PM
Who: Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority/AGO Staff

AG’s New Bedford Regional Office
105 William Street, First Floor New Bedford, MA 02740
Event Type: Open House
Topic: Overview of AGO
Time: 4:00PM-6:00PM
Who: AGO Staff 

YWCA of Western MA
1 Clough Street, Springfield, MA 01118
Event Type: Springfield Community Action Hours
Topic: Consumer Awareness/Intake Processing/Workers’ Rights
Time: 6:00PM-8:00PM
Who: AGO Staff 

Thursday, March 10

Revere Senior Center
25 Winthrop Ave. Revere, MA 02151
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Common Senior Scams
Time: 1:15PM-3:30PM
Who: AGO Staff/Revere Consumer Affairs Office

Springfield City Hall Atrium
36 Court Street, Springfield, MA 01103
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 9:00AM-12:00PM
Who: Springfield Mayor's Office of Consumer Information

Great Barrington Council on Aging
917 South Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Common Senior Scams
Time: 10:30AM-11:30AM
Who: Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority

Friday, March 11

Brockton VA Hospital, Building 3, 2nd Floor
940 Belmont Street, 02301
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness
Time: 10:00AM-2:00PM
Who: AGO Staff

Saturday, March 12

Cambridge Central Square U.S. Postal Service
770 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139
Event Type: Shred Day
Topic: Shred Sensitive Documents, Info on ID Theft/Scams
Time: 10:00AM-2:00PM
Who: AGO Staff/Cambridge Consumers' Council

Chelmsford Senior Center
75 Groton Rd, North Chelmsford, MA 01863
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: Consumer Awareness, About the AGO
Time: 10AM-12PM
Who: Middlesex Community College Law Center

Stoklosa Middle School
560 Broadway Street, Lowell, MA 01854
Event Type: Information Table
Topic: “Financially Hers” - A Seminar on Women’s Financial Management
Time: 11:00AM-2:00PM
Who: Middlesex Community College Law Center

Tuesday, March 15

River Court Residence Assisted Living
8 West Main Street, Groton, MA 01450
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Mediation Processes
Time: 9:00AM
Who: Middlesex Community College Law Center

Wednesday, March 23

Boxford Council on Aging
4 Middleton Road, Boxford, MA 01921
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Common Senior Scams & Consumer Awareness
Time: 11:00AM-12:00PM
Who: AGO Staff

Saturday, March 26

Hingham Middle School
1103 Main Street, Hingham, MA 02043
Event Type: Early Childhood Fair
Topic: Information for families with young children
Time: 10:00AM-12:00PM
Who: South Shore Community Action Council’s Consumer Aid Program

Wednesday, March 30

Ward 4 Community Center
100 Brooks Avenue, Quincy, MA 02169
Event Type: Presentation
Topic: Senior Scams
Time: 1:00PM-3:00PM
Who: Norfolk DA’s Consumer Protection Office

 

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