Consumer Savvy 101: How to Outsmart the Latest Scammers
2018 National Consumer Protection Week is March 4-10. Scammers are always looking for new ways to do their worst. But with some help from Hillsborough County Consumer & Veterans Services, you can be prepared to avoid even the sneakiest scam. Here are five tips for beating the bad guys.
Beware of FEMA impersonators
Hurricane Irma is long gone, but scammers are still in business. Don't let someone into your home who claims to be a FEMA inspector but does not have a FEMA photo ID. Also, FEMA representatives do not charge for disaster assistance, home inspection, or for help filling out applications.
For help: Contact FEMA at (800) 621-3362. If you've been called by someone asking to verify your FEMA registration even though you didn't apply, or if you tried to claim FEMA assistance but were told you had already applied, you can report fraud to the Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721, and to the Federal Trade Commission.
Review free trial offers carefully
You may unknowingly be agreeing to buy additional products and services, or see credit card charges for automatic shipments of products you did not intend to order. Before signing up, research the company and user reviews, understand terms and conditions, and carefully examine the fine print and pre-checked boxes.
For help: File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call their Consumer Response center at (877) 382-4357, and with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also report the incident to the Better Business Bureau.
Know the rules when signing a contract
Most contracts are legally binding once a valid offer is accepted. However, there are certain types of contracts that include a right of rescission, also known as a "cooling off" rule. It's not automatic. Before you sign, learn more at the Florida Office of the Attorney General website.
For help: Not sure you have the right to cancel? Contact a consumer agency such as the Florida Attorney General's Office at (866) 9-NO-SCAM, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (800) HELP-FLA, or Hillsborough County Consumer & Veterans Services at (813) 635-8316.
Protect your Medicare identity
Medicare is mailing new cards to beneficiaries that feature a unique Medicare Number instead of a Social Security Number. Scammers may try to profit during the transition. Make sure your mailing address is up to date. Contact Social Security or (800) 772-1213.
For help: If someone calls and asks for your card number or says you need to pay for your new card, hang up and call (800) MEDICARE, or (800) 633-4227.
What to look for when taking a taxi
Drivers must prominently display their Public Vehicle Driver's License. They can only charge rates established by Hillsborough County. And taxi vehicles must have valid permits, be clean, and the driver should be courteous.
See Vehicle for Hire Services for more information, or call Hillsborough County Consumer & Veterans Services at (813) 635-8316.
Learn more about the services provided by Hillsborough County Consumer & Veterans Services or call (813) 635-8316.