Consumer protection tips
NORTHAMPTON — Consumer protection experts offered a smorgasbord of tips and information at a number of workshops this month in recognition of National Consumer Protection Month.
Here are some resources:
∎ The Northwestern district attorney’s Consumer Protection Division has information about a plethora of topics, including filing a complaint, on its website at northwesternda.org/consumer-protection. The division can be reached in Hampshire County at 413-586-9225 and in Franklin County at 413-774-3186.
∎ Attorney general’s western Massachusetts Office in Springfield can provide basic information about the law and evaluate whether a consumer should prepare a complaint. The office’s website is mass.gov/ago/ (click under “Our Organization), or at 784-1240.
∎ Attorney general’s public inquiry and assistance center hotline at 617-727-8400 fields 60,000 calls a year.
∎ Debt collectors are governed by specific state laws. For details, visit mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/consumer-information/, and navigate through the credit and financial literacy, consumer-credit and fair debt collection tabs.
∎ Visit annualcreditreport.com to obtain free credit reports from the three authorized credit bureaus. Other websites that claim to offer free credit reports, free credit scores or free credit monitoring are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program.
∎ Considering a vehicle purchase? Information and rules spelled out on many websites, including the Consumer Protection Division, Northwestern district attorney’s office (northwesternda.org/consumer-resources) and the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (mass.gov/ocabr/consumer/autos).
∎ Sites with lots of consumer information, including about scams, include the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov); Consumer Federation of America (consumerfed.org), and a website funded by the United States Postal Inspection Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation called lookstoogoodtobetrue.com
— CHAD CAIN