(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine kicked off National Consumer Protection Week activities today, highlighting enhanced efforts to fight criminal scams and warning Ohioans about both the newest scams and the most frequently reported complaints. National Consumer Protection Week is March 6–12.
"Protecting Ohio consumers is one of the core duties of the Attorney General's Office. I encourage Ohioans to take full advantage of their consumer rights and to make better-informed decisions," DeWine said. "And to the scammers and con artists in Ohio — you are on notice. We will use every tool available to us to end scams in our state."
Increasing Criminal Prosecutions in Consumer Protection:
DeWine announced that the Attorney General's Office would commemorate National Consumer Protection Week with an enhanced focus on increasing the number of criminal cases referred to local prosecutors by the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section. He noted that in 2010, only 12 cases were referred to local prosecutors by the Consumer Protection Section, of which only two resulted in prosecutions.
"While the nature of our office's consumer protection work results in many civil cases filed on behalf of the public, we need to do a better job of holding the most malicious scam artists in our state accountable. I pledge enhanced resources within the Attorney General's Office to help our local prosecutors bring criminal scammers to justice," DeWine said.
To that end, DeWine announced that Jackson County Prosecutor Jonathon Blanton will be principal assistant attorney general within the Consumer Protection Section. Blanton will work with other staff members to identify potential criminal cases from the section, present them to local prosecutors and coordinate assistance from the Ohio Attorney General's Office to aid in their prosecution.
"Jonathan Blanton is one of Ohio's most respected county prosecutors. Just as he has vigilantly worked to protect the residents of Jackson County, I look forward to working with him in our efforts to protect Ohio consumers," said DeWine. "By targeting consumer scams for criminal prosecution, we are sending a strong message that their schemes will not be tolerated, and I am pleased that an experienced prosecutor like Jonathan Blanton will be leading our efforts."
Consumer Alert: Spoofing:
DeWine also warned consumers about spoofing, a tool scam artists use to steal personal information. Similar to phishing scams, spoofing scams occur when scam artists call consumers posing as legitimate businesses and masking their phone number. A phone's Caller ID will actually come up as that of the real business in hopes the consumer will reveal financial information to the scammer.
"As technology advances, scam artists continue to find increasingly new and devious ways to try to steal consumers' identities. The latest trend with spoofing serves as a reminder that no consumer should ever reveal sensitive information to any unsolicited caller or in an e-mail message," DeWine said.
Consumers who experience spoofing, phishing, or any other scam can report them to the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/ReportaScam or by calling 800-282-0515.
Top 10 Scams Reported in Ohio:
DeWine also used National Consumer Protection Week to remind Ohioans of the most frequently reported scams in the state. According to the office's consumer complaint data, the top 10 most-reported scams in 2010 fell in these categories:
- Motorized vehicles
- Collections, credit reporting or financial services
- Internet or phone
- Household goods or property improvement
- Shopping, food or beverages
- Professional services
- Sweepstakes or prizes
- Computers or electronics
Consumers can report scams to the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/ReportaScam or by calling 800-282-0515.
National Consumer Protection Week Events:
The Ohio Attorney General's Office has compiled a list of helpful National Consumer Protection Week events at which Ohioans can receive free information on how to protect their privacy, manage their money, and avoid scams. Consumers can visit the office's Consumer Protection Week website at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/NCPW to learn more information.
Eve Mueller: 614-466-3840
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840