Have you heard of the “Health Jolting Chair”? What use would you have for a “Lung Expander” or an “Ozone Generator”? Would you trust an “Electric Girdle for Men”? These are just a few examples of a range of products and promises of revitalized health and wellness which seem far-fetched now, though were more widely accepted back in the early 1900s when they first appeared.*
As far-fetched and quaint as some of these claims seem now, modern-day infomercials and back-of-the-magazine advertising from today continue to showcase products which tout similarly questionable claims. One important difference between purchasing products featured in the ads of yore from purchasing products promoted in the ads of today is that there are now methods for recourse against companies whose products or services do not perform as promised. If you believe you have been presented false information about a company's product or service, or if you have paid for a service and did not receive what you were promised in exchange for your payment, you can report your situation and get assistance from several government agencies. Please note that not all agencies are available to provide personal assistance to resolve your situation, but they can provide guidance on steps you can take to protect yourself.
Do not hesitate to report questionable or illegal behavior of businesses. Not only are you preventing future scams from occurring, but you might also get compensation for your lost money. According to the Federal Trade Commission's 2018 Annual Report on Refunds to Consumers, between July 2017 and June 2018, the FTC mailed out checks totaling $122 million to 2.2 million people as a result of lawsuits that the FTC has filed on behalf of consumers. It can pay to report the fraudulent activity of unscrupulous businesses!
If you have been the victim of scams, fraud, or identity theft, or if you have a complaint about unfair or misleading business practices or concern about business licenses, our Money Matters page can help. There you will find a “Money Troubles” section which lists resources to help you with consumer financial protection and steps for reporting identity theft, frauds, and scams.
Selected Books About Consumer Protection
Federal Trade Commission: The Federal Trade Commission provides information about recent scams and how to recognize the warning signs. Through the FTC Complaint Assistant, the FTC will address complaints about someone falsely claiming to be from the government, a business, a family member, and complaints about identity theft and companies improperly using personal information.
Federal Government resources:The Federal Government's website has a section describing different kinds of scams and frauds and how to report them.
California Department of Consumer Affairs: The California Department of Consumer Affairs investigates consumer complaints on issues under its jurisdiction and educates consumers by giving them information they need to avoid being victimized by unscrupulous or unqualified people who promote deceptive or unsafe services.
California Attorney General's Office: Within California, there are various government agencies that regulate different industries. The California Attorney General's Office has a Complaint Referral Table which lists the different industries and contact information for the government agencies that oversee these industries.
*You can see advertisements for these products and more in Central Library's display case by the circulation desk. —On display through the end of April 2019.