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Consumer Fraud Unit

The Consumer Fraud Unit files and prosecutes cases civilly and/or criminally. The cases may involve unfair or unlawful business practices, and tactics such as false advertising, price-fixing, and deceptive sales pitches hurt many people – both consumers and legitimate businesses alike.

The District Attorney’s Consumer Fraud Unit investigates and prosecutes unfair or dishonest business practices so that consumers in Riverside County get true value for their money. Through jail sentences and lawsuits which levy heavy monetary penalties for fraudulent practices, the Consumer Fraud Unit strives to uphold consumer protection laws.

As the first line of defense against fraud, however, consumers must be constantly on guard. Consumer fraud is a uniquely preventable crime. By learning about current rip-offs in the marketplace and by following basic tips on smart consumer behavior, you can protect yourself and help us protect all the consumers of Riverside.

  • Before making a purchase, check Consumer Reports at the library and comparison shop.
  • Check on the reliability and reputation of the firm you are dealing with.
  • Make sure that the price you pay matches the advertised price you see.
  • If you are dealing with a contractor, check with the Contractor’s License Board (562) 590-5331 or (626) 815-8468.
  • Make sure all guarantees, warranties and promises are in writing.
  • If you have any doubts, think it over. Don’t be pressured into buying.
  • For home repairs over $200, get several estimates and written itemizations; keep any mechanical parts which were replaced.
  • If you are buying on time, find out all finance and interest charges. Find out the monthly payments and the total cost.
  • Keep all receipts, warranties and instructions in a safe, convenient place.


Alerts & Advisories

IRS Tax Scam
The Internal Revenue Service warns senior citizens and other taxpayers to beware of an emerging scheme tempting them to file tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds.

Timeshare Resale Fraud
As a result of the current economic climate, there are timeshare owners who are desirous of selling their timeshares as soon as possible. Some owners may have concluded that their timeshares no longer suit their needs. Others may be facing foreclosure. Others may be convinced that there are buyers interested in their timeshares. And others may simply want to avoid paying maintenance and special assessment fees. Please visit the California Department of Real Estate at www.dre.ca.gov for more information.

The
“Grandma Scam”

Imposters, often from foreign countries, target the elderly by posing as a grandchild in trouble and in need of cash. The caller often says that he or she has been arrested, was in a car accident or has some type of medical emergency. The caller always insists that the grandparent not tell anyone about the money transfer, which is one of the red flags. The scam is often effective because it catches seniors off guard and tugs at their heartstrings. Victims of financial elder abuse lose an estimated $2.9 billion nationwide, according to a study released by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 90, live alone and require some level of help with healthcare or home maintenance.

Fight back by ensuring that your friends and family members do not become victims. Explain to them how the scam works, and encourage them to be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly and wants them to wire money- especially to Mexico and Canada.

To keep your finances safe from scams, consider these tips: sweepstakes and overseas lotteries are phony; screen your calls before answering; don’t be afraid to hang up on the perpetrator; don’t let emotions cause you to react immediately to a phone call, letter or email; always check with a professional adviser. When people have been scammed once, their phone numbers and information are sold to other tricksters. Consider changing your phone number to avoid an onslaught of predatory phone calls.

It Looks Official...
Our office routinely receives complaints regarding what appear to be "official" mailings. These solicitations arrive in the mail in envelopes which mimic official government mailings and contain "invoices" or "qualification" notices. Although the entire solicitation is made to look like an official government mailing, the mailings are usually advertisements designed to trick the consumer into buying or paying for services. Please read these solicitations very carefully - especially the FINE PRINT - where you might find the disclaimer "this is not a government agency." If you receive a such a mailing, be aware that you are not dealing with a government agency and are not required to pay for the offered service.

Property Tax Scam
Consumers continue to report receiving official-looking forms by mail with the County Assessor's ID No. and the address of their real property along with the current assessed value of the property. The form states that for a "processing fee," paid by a "due date," the citizen's property can be "reassessed." The letter also states that, if the fee is not received by the due date, a "late fee" will be applied. Be advised, any real-property owner can request a reassessment without charge from our County Assessor's office.

Jury Duty Scam
The public needs to be aware that individuals identifying themselves as U.S. court employees have been telephonically contacting citizens and advising them that they have been selected for jury duty. These individuals ask to verify names and Social Security numbers, then ask for credit card numbers. If the request is refused, citizens are then threatened with fines. The judicial system will never contact people telephonically and ask for personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth or credit card numbers. If you receive one of these phone calls, do not provide any personal or confidential information to these individuals. This is an attempt to steal or to use your identity by obtaining your name, Social Security number and potentially to apply for credit or credit cards or other loans in your name. It is an attempt to defraud you.

Filing an Identity Theft Police Report Can Save you Money
California typically leads the nation when it comes to privacy protection laws. California law, Penal Code section 530.6, allows California residents who believe they have been victimized by financial fraud and identity theft to request a police report -- regardless of whether the crime was committed in the victim’s location or somewhere else in the country. A helpful Identity Theft Victim Checklist is available from the California Department of Consumer Affairs' Office of Privacy Protection. There is also a Guide for Victims of Criminal Identity Theft. The California Office of Privacy Protection provides information, advocacy, training, and "best practice" guidelines for consumers, businesses and other organizations. If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement office and make a report.

Charitable Trusts
Taking time to learn about a charity before you donate can go a long way to making sure that the nonprofit organization and cause match your intentions. However, researching charities can be daunting when you consider that there are more than 700,000 federally recognized nonprofit organizations - nearly 90,000 of them in California - and no official "seal of approval" issued. The "Charities Search" section of California Attorney General's Web site offers links to GuideStar's information on California charities, including many charities' filings with the IRS, Form 990. The database is searchable by name, location, income range, category or identification number.

Free Credit Report
The Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's largest consumer protection agency, has prepared a brochure, “Your Access to Free Credit Reports”, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report. A credit report contains information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

SPAM SCAM - Spoofing You Out of Personal Info
Consumers should be on the alert for sophisticated "spoof" e-mails that trick unwary and unsuspecting Internet users into giving personal information that can be used to drain bank accounts, fraudulently get credit cards and commit other crimes. The scam is commonly called "brand spoofing" or "phishing" because the spam mail sent uses familiar or legitimate-sounding names of companies to gain personal information. This scam capitalizes on names that are close to the real one. A recent example is instead of the real Earthlink.net, the spam mail used an URL like www.earthlinkservice.com. Small and large companies have been spoofed, such as Bank of America, Best Buy, PayPal and First Union Bank. Consumers may be sent e-mails that seemingly come from a company with which they've done business or be sent by hyperlink to a phony web site - designed even to look like the legitimate business web site. One victim reported getting a seemingly authentic e-mail from what appeared to be his Internet Service Provider telling him his credit card had expired and new information was needed. He was asked to provide a credit card number and to give his bank account number and ATM PIN number.

Here are some basic rules to consider.

  • When in doubt, throw the e-mail out.

  • Never give out personal information by e-mail.

  • Don't trust e-mail headers. They can be faked.

  • Never fill out a form in an e-mail message. You never know who will get it.

  • Never trust the link in an e-mail message. Scam artists are getting sophisticated and are able to have their web site mirror a legitimate business web site.

  • Don't trust e-mail messages on the status of your account. Always go directly to a company's web site to access your account information by means of your personal identification and log-in.

Federal Trade Commission's Do-Not-Call Registry
The Federal Trade Commission's national "do not call" registry, which is a part of the amended telemarketing sales rule, or TSR, is available at donotcall.gov or by phone (888) 382-1222. The do-not-call registry covers most unwanted telemarketing calls that are part of nationwide, interstate selling campaigns. Do-not-call registration is free. Online registration is available if you have an e-mail account. To register by phone, you will need to call from the number you wish to register. Telephone numbers placed on the National Do Not Call Registry will remain on it permanently due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008, unless there are removed as follows: Under the Act, the Federal Trade Commission will continue to remove telephone numbers that have been disconnected and reassigned to other customers. Consumers can delete their telephone numbers from the registry at any time by calling (888) 382-1222 or TTY (866) 290-4236 - the call must be made from the telephone number they wish to delete. If you continue to receive unwanted calls, there is addition information available at ftc.gov.

To file a complaint:

  • Visit ftc.gov

  • Call toll-free, (877) FTC-HELP (877 382-4357); TTY: (866) 653-4261

The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

 

Issue or Complaint

Contact

Accountants

California Board of Accountancy
(916) 263-3680
www.dca.ca.gov/cba

Chiropractors

Chiropractic Examiners
(916) 263-5355
www.chiro.ca.gov

Contractors, licensed or unlicensed
(Includes plumbing, heating/ air conditioning, Landscaping, painting, roofing, home repairs,
Electrical, etc.)

Contractors State License Board
(800) 321-2752
www.cslb.ca.gov

Credit Counseling Services

CA Department of Corporations
(866) 275-2677
www.corp.ca.gov

Dental

Dental Board of California
(916) 263-2595
www.dbc.ca.gov

Electronics and Appliances
(Home electronics, major appliances,
automotive radio and security systems)

Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair
(916) 574-2041
www.bear.ca.gov

Illegal Food Vendors

Riverside County Department of Environmental Health
(888) 722-4234
www.rivcoeh.org

Funeral
(Sales, pre-paid trusts; cemeteries, crematories)

Cemetery and Funeral Bureau
(916) 574-7870
www.cfb.ca.gov

Home Furnishings
(Bedding, custom upholsterers, Furniture sellers)

Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation
(916) 574-2041
www.bhfti.ca.gov

Investments

CA Department of Corporations
(866) 275-2677
www.corp.ca.gov/Education_Outreach/invest/

Labor violations
(Wages, work conditions, OSHA violations)

Division of Industrial Relations
(619) 220-5451
www.dir.ca.gov

Motor Vehicle Repairs

Bureau of Automotive Repair
(800) 952-5210
www.autorepair.ca.gov

Pest Control

Structural Pest Control Board
(916) 561-8700
www.pestboard.ca.gov

Pharmacists/Pharmacy

CA State Board of Pharmacy
(916) 574-7900
www.pharmacy.ca.gov

Physicians
(Licensed or unlicensed)

Medical Board, Central Complaint Unit
(800) 633-2322
www.mbc.ca.gov

Privacy Protection
(assistance with Identity theft and privacy concerns)

CA Office of Privacy Protection
(866) 785-9663 or (916) 651-1086
www.privacy.ca.gov

Purchase of new or used motor vehicle
(Includes vehicle warranty)

Department of Motor Vehicles
(858) 627-3951
www.dmv.ca.gov

Scanner overcharges, short weight or volume
(Gasoline, produce, goods for sale)

Department of Weights and Measures
(951) 955-3030
www.rivcoag.org

Security
(Alarm companies, locksmiths, private investigators, repossession companies, security guards)

Bureau of Security and Investigative Services
(916) 322-4000
www.dca.ca.gov/bsis

Social Security Fraud

Social Security Administration
(619) 557-5257
(800) 772-1213 - Hotline
www.ssa.gov

Solicitation by mail
(Sweepstakes, lottery and prize Notifications)

U.S. Postal Inspector
(619) 233-0610
postalinspectors.uspis.gov

Solicitation by telephone
(Sweepstakes, lottery and prize Notifications)

U.S. Postal Inspector
(626) 405-1200
postalinspectors.uspis.gov

Travel Agency/Time Shares Companies

State Attorney General's Office
(213) 897-8065
ag.ca.gov/travel/forms.php

Utility companies, movers, limousines, buses, or taxis

Public Utilities Commission
(800) 649-7570
www.cpuc.ca.gov



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