Now more than ever, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is essential to protecting yourself and your family from the countless frauds that arise each day. From March 5th-11th, NCPW provides a valuable opportunity for consumers to become aware of their rights while learning how they can stay secure against scammers. This year, it’s a time for us to help get you informed so you don’t fall victim!
What Makes Up NCPW?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its official partners, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), AARP, and consumer protection agencies from all 50 states, are teaming up to help protect consumers. Each of these organizations is providing resources and information on how to recognize common scams and how to report them. This year’s NCPW will include new initiatives focused on raising awareness about scams targeting seniors, military members and their families, young people, immigrants, low-income households, individuals with disabilities, and other groups that may be particularly vulnerable to fraud.
Fraud is common and happens often. Whether you’re a senior, young adult, or any other consumer, the key is to keep your eyes and ears open. Knowledge is power – especially when it comes to fraud prevention. It is imperative to be aware of the prevalent frauds in today’s world, including Imposter Scams, Tech Support Scams, Lottery and Sweepstakes fraud, Charity Cons, Identity Theft Ploys, Investment Fraud, and Timeshare Traps.
Before taking any action in a purchase, always double-check that what you’re seeing and feeling is legitimate. If anything seems strange or out of the ordinary, don’t proceed until it’s been verified! Empower yourself and take action against potential threats during National Consumer Protection Week – both the ones that you can see, as well as those lurking beneath the surface.
Shining Light on Dark Patterns
Consumer protection attorney J. Andrew Meyer recently wrote about a new and rapidly growing issue: Dark Patterns. These deceptive or manipulative user interfaces take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge to manipulate them into making certain choices. Dark patterns often appear in the form of hidden fees, misleading language, and confusing terms, all of which can lead to consumers making purchases they would not have made otherwise. Consumers need to be aware of these practices so that they can avoid them and protect themselves from becoming victims.
A recent FTC report has exposed the highly cunning dark patterns used to swindle and ensnare consumers. Such devious tactics include disguised ads, perplexing subscription cancellations, covert terms, and misleading data collection maneuvers. Unfortunately, these dark patterns are becoming distressingly commonplace in the digital space – however, consumer advocates insist that more transparency and responsibility must be put into place immediately.
Ed Mierzwinski, a consumer advocate and senior director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, recently took to Twitter to voice his concerns about the ways in which companies use dark patterns to manipulate consumers. In one tweet, he wrote: “Companies shouldn’t make sign-up easy but cancellation hard like a Roach Motel or a Hotel California where ‘You can check out any time you like but you can never leave’.”
This sentiment is shared by many in the consumer advocacy community, who argue that companies have a responsibility to ensure that their customers are fully informed about the terms of their purchases and able to make informed decisions.
In response to this growing concern, regulatory agencies are beginning to take a more active role in enforcing consumer protection laws and cracking down on companies that engage in deceptive practices. The FTC report on dark patterns is just one example of this trend, as regulators seek to shine a light on the tactics used by companies to manipulate consumers
“On a range of issues in the financial marketplace, consumers can be at risk for scams or fraud,” said Andy Spears, who writes about consumer protection on his blog, Advocate Andy.
Telemarketing is unfortunately the foundation of numerous fraudulent activities. In fact, according to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office in 2022, 34% of all complaints were due to illegal telemarketing calls. No-call complaints – those involving unwanted selling attempts from businesses or organizations towards Missouri residents – generated a record 39,102 reports filed against them!
Recent Consumer Protection Wins
Recently, Bailey’s office declared a resolution in the case against two Texas businessmen who were accused of conning customers into buying car warranties and healthcare plans through automated calls. The court commanded that penalties totaling $244 million be administered to the men for their illegal activities.
In recent years, fraudulent timeshare resale activities have also seen a significant increase. Secondary marketers solicit owners with a promise to assist them in taking over or exiting their timeshare contracts and fraudulently lure them with an assurance of a 100% Money Back Guarantee. The exit company often fails to provide the service or refunds as promised.
In 2022, several well-known exit companies went bankrupt, with Timeshare Termination Team being one among them. To ensure fairness in the Denver Colorado bankruptcy case, Attorney Meyer was designated by the Federal court to represent timeshare owners against TTT. Just recently, a filing from U.S. Trustee’s office has dramatically altered this situation!
“Timeshare owners are often a target of scammers,” Spears said. “People eager to sell an unwanted or underused timeshare are often eager to listen to a pitch – even if it sounds too good to be true.”
What To Do To Keep Safe From Scams
Taking a few precautionary steps can drastically reduce your chances of becoming the victim of fraudulent practices or scams when you’re buying something online or over the phone. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to help keep you safe!
- Be wary of unsolicited phone calls or emails offering you deals that seem too good to be true.
- Research any company before doing business with them.
- Don’t give out personal information unless you’re sure it’s safe.
- Prior to signing any contracts, be sure that you are familiar with all the related costs and fees associated with them. Don’t rush into a contract without knowing exactly what is expected of you!
During National Consumer Protection Week, and beyond, stay informed and take these precautionary steps to help safeguard yourself from any fraudulent activity or scams.
With over 75 years of experience between them, Attorneys J. Andrew Meyer and Michael D. Finn are the pillars behind The Finn Law Group — a firm dedicated to protecting consumers’ rights in timeshare law. Make sure to follow us on Twitter or explore our timeshare blog for more information!