Consumer fraud is more common than many people realize. The truth of the matter, though, is that there are a number of scams and schemes designed to defraud innocent and unsuspecting individuals of their hard-earned money. Sometimes these scams are intentionally carried out by individual bad actors, but other times, businesses engage in unfair trade practices that are meant to deceive consumers. Either way, those who have been financially harmed through these bad acts want their money back.
Illinois and Indiana consumers should be able to participate in the marketplace without fear of being taken advantage of by others. This is why the law seeks to protect these consumers from fraud. Unfortunately, though, far too many individuals are unaware of the legal protections afforded to them. As a direct result, many individuals who are victims of consumer fraud suffer severe financial losses that could otherwise be recovered through legal action. In hopes of better informing individuals of their legal rights, this week we will look at one aspect of Illinois law.
Many Illinois and Indiana residents are likely to give little, if any, thought about consumer protection. After all, most of us enter various markets with the expectation that our identities and finances will be protected from scammers, thieves and those who use deceptive trade practices and misleading advertising. Although a lot of people have become familiar with identity theft, there are many other types of consumer fraud.
Fraud can touch individuals and businesses in a wide variety of ways. The Federal Trade Commission recently released its annual report on consumer fraud, and the numbers are eye opening. The report indicates that nearly three million fraud reports were filed, with many of them falling into the fields of debt collection, identity theft and imposter scams. Although most people who reported these frauds were able to protect themselves financially, 21 percent of those reports accounted for more than $900 million in losses. Most people found themselves losing somewhere between $400 and $500 dollars.
As a consumer, you have certain legal rights. One of those rights is to be free from unfair debt collection practices. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, avoiding it in real life can be quite difficult. One reason is that there is an unfair balance of power in situations where debt is being collected. These collectors will try to use their muscle to scare you into doing things that you don't have to do. They may also illegally intimidate you to try to get you to pay up.
Your cell phone jangles and buzzes. Someone is calling you! In this day of social media and texting, phones calls can seem like a rare treat. You don't recognize the number, but you answer anyway, hoping that you'll soon enjoy a conversation with a friend or family member. Instead, you find yourself listening to a recording that prompts you to push buttons to speak with an operator. Annoyed, you do exactly that. You know that if you tell a telemarketer to stop calling you, they have to remove you from their list.
Being in debt can leave just about anyone stressed; especially when the debt is so overwhelming that it affects your day-to-day living. When you fall behind on your bills, you may find yourself being contacted by debt collectors. Although these companies can be pretty aggressive, it is important that you recognize that there are consumer protection laws in place to help keep you safe from unfair debt collection practices.
When Illinois residents buy a good, they probably put little thought into whether they are getting what they are paying for. Sure, a lot of us try to do our research before making a purchase, as is often the case when one buys a car, but we rarely consider whether a business is actually trying to trick us into purchasing something that isn't what we want. There is good reason why we're not concerned. For decades, federal and state legislatures and agencies have worked hard to curtail consumer fraud. Yet, there are still far too many businesses out there that are trying to dupe their consumers.
Illinois residents who are having financial problems are frequently concerned not just about the debt itself, but the strategies that debt collectors might use to try and collect. Unscrupulous collections companies will frequently partake in unfair debt collection tactics and commit other acts that violate federal law. They are aware of what they are doing and how their behavior brushes up against or openly violates the consumer's rights, but do it anyway. Having legal protection is vital to making this stop.