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Attorney general's office offers help for consumers

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson - Reporter file photo
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Attorney general's office offers help for consumers

The following is a release from the Washington State Attorney General's office:

It is almost impossible not to be a consumer. Whether a purchase is made online or in a store down the street, whenever you engage in some kind of business transaction you are a consumer.

A key priority for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office is to safeguard consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices.

During National Consumer Protection Week, March 2-8, the AGO wants to remind consumers about various ways our office can help if you have been a victim of consumer fraud or abuse.

“If you believe you are the victim of a scam or unfair business tactic, contact my office. We can help,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “The Attorney General’s Office relies on consumer complaints as part of its effort to monitor the marketplace for unfair or deceptive business practices. We will hold those accountable who don’t play by the rules.”

Have a consumer business complaint? File a complaint online

In 2013, the AGO Consumer Resource Center resolved 11,300 consumer complaints and returned $4,275,451 to Washington consumers through its complaint resolution program.

The CRC helps consumers who believe they are victims of scams or unfair practices by providing a free, voluntary, informal complaint resolution service.

The CRC will contact the business and make them aware of the complaint and applicable state laws and give them a chance to respond. The CRC’s involvement can often help resolve the dispute.

In addition to the CRC, the AGO monitors complaints for consumer protection violations and may initiate an investigation or pursue legal action at any time, even if the CRC is not able to help resolve the dispute. As practice, we do not confirm or deny AGO investigations.

If you think you are the victim of a scam please visit http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx to file a complaint online or request a mail-in complaint form. If you have questions about the complaint resolution process, contact the AGO at 1-888-551-4636.

AGO sues bad actors who don’t play by the rules

If a business doesn’t play by the rules, the AGO will hold them accountable. The AGO files numerous lawsuits each year and seeks to recover refunds for consumers and impose penalties and injunctions on offending businesses to stop and deter illegal practices.

For example, in 2013, the AGO filed and settled a major timeshare scam involving Jonathan Gibbs from Olympia, Wash. As a result 1,500 Washington state victims will receive full restitution for lost funds, receiving between $1,000 to $20,000 each.

Educate yourself to avoid being scammed

The AGO monitors the marketplace and sends out scam alerts to notify consumers. Add yourself to the alert list here.

Also, visit our scam alert website for more details.

General tips to avoid scams:

  • Research a business or organization before you spend money to make sure they’re legitimate.
  • Do not give Social Security, financial or other personal information to strangers who contact you by phone, internet, or mail.
  • Keep your antivirus software up to date and be careful when surfing the internet.
  • Shred all physical copies of important documents once you no longer need them.
  • Be suspicious when asked to wire money in order to claim a prize or lottery.
  • Trust your gut, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
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