Consumer rights

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A staff member at a nonprofit law firm is warning Ohio consumers to be savvy when it comes to sales pitches that sound too good to be true.

In recognition of the recent National Consumer Protection Week, Rachel Nader, Advocacy Director for Community Legal Aid, recently shared some advice for residents, warning them to monitor their bank account activity and any fluctuations in their credit reports.

“Often a person doesn’t know they are a victim of identity theft or fraud until they have trouble opening a credit account,” Nader said in a recent statement. Press. “By then, significant damage has already been done.”

Community Legal Aid is a 501(c)3 nonprofit law firm that serves the legal needs of low-income people living in eight counties in central and northeastern Ohio, including Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull .

Reviewing credit reports, Nader said, also helps consumers catch inaccurate information that may have landed on their file. Nader pointed out that it’s a consumer’s legal right to dispute items on credit reports. She noted that Ohioans can access these reports for free by visiting the website www.annualcreditreport.com.

Legal Aid staff also note that there has been an increase in fraudulent activity and scams. Most alarming is the growing number of “identity theft scams,” the press release says, where a caller says they are from a government agency, such as the IRS, Social Security or the Department of Work and Family of Ohio. Scammers may have concocted a fake website or phone number to legitimize their claims.

“Fraudsters prey on victims’ worst fears, threatening them with the worst possible scenario, such as jail, if they don’t comply with their demands,” Nader said.

In reality, she said, government agencies use regular mail and do not call, text or email to make these types of threats.

Therefore, she said consumers should not provide personal or account information. Instead, they are advised to hang up and, if in doubt, call the official agency number to verify the call.

In addition to “identity theft scams,” consumers can fall victim to “rescue scams” ​​that promise to help someone in trouble but offer no real service or value. This is especially common for people facing foreclosure, owing back taxes, or struggling with credit card debt.

“Ohioans should talk to an attorney before paying for services that promise to help them avoid foreclosure or get rid of debt,” Nader said, noting that Legal Aid attorneys offer this type of service.

Finally, Nader said consumers should know and enforce their legal debt rights. The nonprofit has seen an increase in credit card lawsuits in recent months, noting that creditors are stepping up collection efforts as the pandemic begins to wane, she said.

“If someone is being sued for consumer debt, it’s important to actively participate in the legal process,” Nader said, noting that there can be effective legal defenses and it’s unwise to ignore a lawsuit. in justice.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION …

• Ohioans struggling with debt can find information about legal solutions, such as bankruptcy, by visiting the organization’s website at www.communitylegalaid.org/debt. Further help may be available through their Financial Wellness Workshop, which gives qualified applicants the opportunity to speak to a lawyer for advice on their situation. To request assistance, call the helpline at 800-998-9454 or apply online at www.communitylegalaid.org/apply.

• Victims of impersonation or scams should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling toll-free 800-282-0515 or visiting them on the web at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov /.



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