Consumer fraud is a broad term used to refer to a number of deceptive and unfair business practices ranging from misleading advertising to swindles involving large amounts of money. Examples of consumer fraud abound, and include unscrupulous activities involving the sale of defective products, phony charitable causes, travel and real estate scams, bogus sweepstakes, undisclosed fees, improper debt collection and unlicensed work among many others.
Identity theft is the most widely recognized form of consumer fraud, and often involves credit card, employment, bank, and telephone or utilities fraud. There were nearly 9 million victims of identity fraud totaling nearly $50 billion in 2007. Other common categories of consumer fraud include shop-at-home/catalog sales, Internet auctions, computer and Internet services, advance-fee loans and credit protection, telephone services, and work-at-home opportunities.
Protection against consumer fraud is availed through state and federal laws. Consumer fraud laws regulate the advertising, sale, and promotion of consumer products and services. At the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has "consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy". It not only prevents unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices, it also provides numerous resources intended to help consumers spot, avoid, and stop consumer fraud. States provide consumer fraud protection through their attorney general offices and consumer protection agencies.
But while these agencies are set up to investigate consumer fraud complaints, most are not intended or empowered to help individual consumers recover their losses. The vast majority of attorneys also do not practice consumer fraud law. Those who perpetuate consumer fraud often count on their victims giving up after attempting and failing to recover losses with the help of consumer protection agencies. Other consumers wrongly assume that legal help is too costly and/or that their case is too small.
Attorneys who do practice consumer fraud law often do not charge for an initial consultation in these types of cases. The financial sum involved in your case may also not seem high, but damages in consumer fraud cases are often higher than the original amount defrauded. A skilled consumer fraud attorney can also research applicable class action lawsuits he or she could refer you to.
If you or a loved one has been defrauded by a business engaged in unscrupulous practices, a dedicated and qualified consumer fraud attorney can help you obtain compensation for any financial losses, litigation costs, and more. Contact a consumer fraud attorney today.