Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions



A home improvement contractor asked me for payment upfront. Should I pay?

Many contractors require some type of payment up front, but be cautious about paying a contractor a large sum of money in advance. Pay a reasonable down payment – perhaps 20 percent of the total cost – but reserve final payment until the job is fully completed to your satisfaction. Always get a receipt for partial payments or deposits.

I received a flier in the mail offering home improvement services. Should I hire this company?

Before you do, check to see if there are any complaints on file against the company with the Ohio Attorney General's Office ( and the Better Business Bureau ( Even if you don’t find any complaints, be wary—it may be a new business without a proven record. It’s usually best to use someone recommended by a trusted friend or family member. 

Can I rely solely on what the car salesperson tells me?
As with all important purchases, make sure that all promises are in writing and contained in the contract, and carefully read the fine print of all contracts.

Do I have the right to an estimate for a car repair?
If the work will cost more than $50, you usually have the right to an estimate. You can choose a verbal estimate, a written estimate, or no estimate at all.

Can a repair shop charge me more than the estimate?
If the shop determines that the repair cost will increase by 10 percent or more of the original estimate, it generally must get your approval first. Without your permission, it can’t start the extra repairs. The shop also can’t tell you a repair is necessary when it’s not or substantially underestimate the expected cost.

How many days do I have to return a car?
Generally, none. There is no right to cancel a car purchase under Ohio law.

I just bought a used car “as is,” but my mechanic says it needs several repairs. Does the dealer have to pay for the repairs?

In most cases, no.  Because you bought the car “as is,” you are generally responsible for any repairs, absent fraud or concealment on the dealer’s part.  If possible, take a vehicle to your own mechanic for inspection before you buy it.

What is a "lemon?"

A “lemon” is a new motor vehicle that has one or more problems, covered by the warranty, that significantly impair the vehicle’s use, value or safety.

What is covered under Ohio’s Lemon Law?

Generally, Ohio’s Lemon Law only applies to new motor vehicles since it covers vehicles during the first 12 months or first 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first. If you have problems with your vehicle during this protection period, take the vehicle back and ask the dealer or manufacturer to fix those problems. In most instances, if the vehicle cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, you have the legal right to ask the dealer or manufacturer to replace the lemon or refund the entire purchase price.

Ohio’s Lemon Law applies to motor vehicles only, not appliances or other household products.

What's the best way to research a used car's history?
Before you buy a used vehicle, find out its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and run a title search with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System at Check on issues such as flood damage through the National Insurance Crime Bureau at Always test drive the vehicle and have it inspected by a trustworthy independent mechanic.

What are the risks of buying a car on the Internet?
In some cases, online dealers fail to deliver the vehicle, costing the consumer thousands of dollars. In other instances, there may be problems obtaining the title. Also, a picture that a dealer posts online could have been taken years ago or it could mask serious problems like interior damage.

Are stores required to issue refunds on previous purchases?
Stores are not required to issue refunds.  However, if they do not offer refunds, the store must clearly post a sign stating its refund policy.

How can I find out if an online car dealer is reliable?
Do plenty of research. An online auto dealer should be licensed to sell cars in Ohio, so check with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles at to make sure it is. 

If I buy a car online, am I still protected by Ohio’s consumer laws?

Yes, online vehicle dealers must follow Ohio laws if they do business with Ohio consumers. However, be careful before buying a car online. If you have any problems before, during, or after the sale, it may be hard to contact the dealer. Be skeptical if a seller asks you to wire funds or pay a deposit to “hold” a vehicle. The seller may be a scam artist who is trying to steal your money, not sell you a car.

The dealer didn't deliver my title on time — what should I do?
You should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. We’ll work with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the dealership to try to get your title. We also administer a program called the Title Defect Rescission Fund. If the used car dealer does not file an application for a certificate of title in your name within 40 days from the date of purchase, you have an unconditional right to request to cancel the transaction from the dealer, and if the dealer does not cancel the transaction, you may apply to the Title Defect Rescission Fund for a refund by filing a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

What is a title?
A certificate of title is a document that proves ownership of a vehicle. Vehicle titles are issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

My temporary tags are about to expire and I still don't have the title — what should I do?
You can get one more 30-day tag by going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Take your ID and your purchase agreement. You cannot get another tag directly from the dealership.

How can I get a debt collector to stop contacting me?

Federal law protects you against being harassed by debt collectors. Write the collector a letter asking that they not contact you anymore. To ensure that the collector receives the letter, send it via certified mail.

However, if the debt belongs to you, even if a debt collector stops contacting you, you still owe the debt.

What should I do if a debt collector is contacting me and I believe I do not owe the debt, or I want proof of the debt?

While there are con artists who try to scam consumers by claiming they owe debt, if you believe a legitimate debt collector has contacted you about debt you do not owe, you can dispute the debt.  Send a letter to the debt collector stating your reasons for the disputing the debt.  The debt collector must cease contacting you until they verify that the debt is valid. 

How can I get help settling my debts?
Paying down debt is hard work. There is no quick fix. If you want to settle your debts, explore multiple options, such as contacting your creditors yourself to try to negotiate a reduced balance, working with a nonprofit credit counseling agency, or working with a reputable business. Beware of scams and false promises to erase your debt. You can contact a certified, nonprofit credit counselor by calling the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at (800) 388-2227. 

What are the risks of debt relief programs?
Some of these programs do not comply with state or federal law and may charge you hundreds or thousands of dollars before doing any real work, even though federal regulations prohibit them from charging advance fees before providing any services. Additionally, some services may tell you to stop paying your creditors and promise to pay them on your behalf. Be aware that you still are obligated to pay your creditors during this time. Any time you stop making payments to your creditors, you risk damaging your credit rating and owing more in late fees and interest. 

How can I improve my credit score?
Always pay your bills on time; keep your balance below 30 percent of your credit limit; don’t close old accounts (a longer history is better); don’t apply for lots of new credit in a short period of time; and use a variety of credit accounts, such as credit cards, a mortgage loan and a car loan. Also check your credit report(s) for errors and report them to the credit reporting company that issued the report (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion).

What information is in a credit report?
Your credit report contains the following information:
  • Personal information: name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and employment.
  • Account information: type of credit account, date you opened the account, credit limit or loan amount, account balance and payment history.
  • Inquiries: a list of lenders who have accessed your credit report. 
  • Negative items: delinquency reports made by your lender when you have missed a payment, overdue debt from collection agencies and public record information such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, garnishments, lawsuits and judgments.

What is a credit report?
A credit report tracks an individual’s credit history. If you have a credit account in your name, such as a credit card or car loan, you should have a credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Your credit reports indicate how you use credit, including whether you pay your bills on time.

Can the State of Ohio file a lawsuit for me?
No. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office does not represent individual citizens in court to resolve their problems with a business. Any individual lawsuits must be filed by you or your legal counsel. The Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has an informal dispute resolution process that helps to resolve complaints outside of the formal legal process.  

Where can I get my free credit report?
You can check each of your three credit reports for free once a year at or by calling (877) 322-8228. Note that federal law provides that your credit report is free once a year, but not your credit score.

What is a credit score?
A credit score is a number that indicates how “credit-worthy” you are. Factors that impact your credit score may include your payment history, the amount owed to creditors, your length of credit history, any newly opened credit, and the types of credit you are using.

Do I have a three-day right to cancel any contract or purchase I make?

No, under Ohio law, the right to cancel a contract or purchase applies only to certain types of contracts. For example, if you sign a contract in your home, then you have three business days to cancel it, in writing.

Does Saturday count as a business day with regard to the three-day right to cancel?

Yes, business days are Mondays through Saturdays. Sundays and legal holidays, such as the Fourth of July, are not considered business days under Ohio law.

How do I file a complaint against a business?
You can choose to file a complaint at the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section online; by phone at 800-282-0515; or through the postal mail after requesting and receiving a hard copy of the office’s complaint form. Please provide all of the information necessary to help explain your issue with the business and what you have done to resolve it.

I signed up for a free trial offer, so why am I being charged?

By accepting a free trial offer, you may have enrolled in a program to continue to receive the product after the free trial period. Read the terms of your contract or agreement. Look for the amount of time you had to cancel before charges were applied. Also look for instructions on how to cancel during the trial period. A business must clearly disclose that you will be charged for additional goods or services.

If I have a contract that renews automatically, is the company required to send me a reminder before the renewal date?

No. The company doesn’t have to send you a reminder unless one is required by your contract.

When purchasing items online, what’s the best way to pay?

It’s usually best to pay with a credit card. If there’s a problem, you can dispute the charges with your credit card provider.

I received a check and a letter in the mail that said I won a foreign lottery. The letter says I should deposit the check, wire transfer some of the money back and keep the rest. Is this real?

No, this is a fake check scam. Although the check may look real, it’s not. If you deposit it, the full amount will be deducted from your account. Any time you get an unexpected check in the mail, be suspicious. Also watch for fake check scams when selling goods online. A buyer might “overpay” by sending you a check for more than the purchase price and then ask you to send back the extra money. This is another fake check scam. The buyer’s check is fake, and you will lose any money you send.

What are some signs that someone may be trying to scam me?
Some red flags of a scam include if someone:
  • Asks you to wire money or purchase a prepaid money card.
  • Pressures you to “act now!”
  • Guarantees you’ll make money.
  • Tells you to send money in advance to secure or ensure a loan or grant.
  • Claims you’ve won a contest you’ve never heard of or entered.
  • Tells you to pay a fee to receive your “prize.”
  • Requests your personal information.
  • Asks for a large down payment.
  • Refuses to provide written information or contact information.
  • Asks you to send money out of the country

How can I sign up to be on the Do Not Call Registry?
You can register your phone number (landline and/or cell phone) with the National Do Not Call Registry by calling (888) 382-1222 or visiting

I received an e-mail from my bank asking me to confirm my personal information. It looks real, so should I follow the instructions on this e-mail?

No. This is a scam called phishing. Never reply or follow the links on these types of e-mails even if they look real. Trustworthy companies and financial institutions will not ask you to change or confirm your personal information via e-mail. If you are concerned about your account, directly contact your bank using a phone number or website you know to be correct, not the number or site provided in the e-mail.

Is the phone number on my caller ID display always accurate?
Be aware that scammers can disguise or “spoof” the number that appears on your caller ID. The caller ID may show a local area code, even though the call actually is coming from a scammer elsewhere, possibly in another country.

Are offers for “mystery shopping” jobs legitimate?

Rarely. If you get a letter in the mail saying you’ve been selected as a mystery shopper, be skeptical. The “job” may require you to “evaluate” the money transferring system at a local store by cashing a check and wire transferring some of the money. This is a fake check scam, and if you follow the instructions, you will only lose money, not make it.

I have received an unexpected call from someone saying they’re from Microsoft, Windows, or a legitimate-sounding tech support or anti-virus software company. They tell me my computer has a virus. What should I do?
Hang up the phone. A popular scam has resulted in many Ohioans receiving calls from someone who claims their computer has been infected by a virus or other malicious software. The scammer attempts to convince the unsuspecting consumer into paying to have the “problem” fixed. Ultimately, the scammers will request remote access into the consumer’s computer, supposedly to install antivirus software to resolve the issues. Remote access allows someone to gain access to a computer through the Internet and free downloadable software. Once you give an unexpected caller remote access, you have compromised any personal information on your device as well as opened the door to malicious software being loaded onto your computer. Protect yourself and your computer by not allowing any unexpected callers remote access to your computer and by keeping antivirus software up to date.      

I have received a call from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the U.S. Treasury. They left a message telling me to call a certain phone number, or claim that I must take action to avoid arrest or legal repercussions. What should I do?
Hang up the phone and do not call the phone number provided in a message. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, be very skeptical, especially if you never received any written notice. The real IRS will not demand immediate payment, refuse to provide written information, or demand payment methods preferred by scammers such as a wire transfer or a prepaid card.

I received an urgent call from someone claiming to be my grandchild. They tell me they are in an emergency situation and request that I send money. What should I do?
If you get a call from a grandchild or other family member who claims to be in trouble, ask questions only your real family members would know how to answer. Even if the caller asks you to “not call mom or dad,” contact your son, daughter, or other relative to see if your grandchild is ok. Don’t send money via wire transfer or prepaid card in response to an unexpected phone call. These are preferred payment methods of scammers because they are difficult to trace or recover once payment is provided. 

How often do I need to renew my Do Not Call registration?
Your registration to the national Do Not Call Registry does not expire. It is permanent unless you remove your number from the list.

I am receiving unwanted calls and am already registered on the national Do Not Call list. What should I do?
Most telemarketers must stop calling you once your number has been on the registry for 31 days. Even if you are registered, charities, political organizations, and telephone surveyors may continue to contact you. Companies with which you do business also may continue to call unless you tell them to put you on their internal do not call list. To file a complaint, you may go to or call (888) 382-1222. You may also file a complaint with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office either by phone (800) 282-0515 or online at

What do I do if a credit card or loan was taken out using my personal information?
The immediate steps to take include:
  • Contact the creditor and ask the account be closed immediately. Get new account numbers and change passwords and PINs.
  • File a report with your local law enforcement.
  • Place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting any of the three major credit reporting agencies.
  • Review your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies at, looking for errors.
  • Contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as a potential victim of identity theft.

I received an unwanted email or text message—what should I do?
Rules by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ban businesses from sending unsolicited texts when using an auto dialer, which is a technology that is used by most commercial spammers. Exceptions include when a company has received consent from a consumer or the communication is “for emergency purposes.” The FCC has requirements for unsolicited emails and texts from a business as well, such as the need to include a way to unsubscribe as well as an honest disclosure of who the sender of the message is. If you believe these rules have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FCC.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also accepts complaints about unwanted emails sent to computers from businesses.

Can telemarketers call me on my cell phone?
Most telemarketers should not call you on your cell phone because federal regulations prohibit them from using auto dialers to call cell phones. However, you can register your cell phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry by calling (888) 382-1222 or visiting

How do I correct information on my credit report that isn’t mine?
Contact the credit reporting agency and dispute the information. If the information is the result of identity theft, file a police report and provide a copy of the report to the credit reporting agency. You may want to place an initial fraud alert on your file if you suspect identity theft; that initial fraud alert will stay on your file for one year. 

What do I do if there is a warrant out for my arrest but I have not committed any crimes?
If you believe a legitimate law enforcement agency has an arrest warrant wrongly issued in your name, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) at 740-845-2000. BCI can provide direction on steps to clear your information from the warrant.

What’s the difference between a credit freeze and an initial fraud alert?
A credit freeze stops new credit from being issued in a customer’s name by those companies that check credit from the three major credit reporting agencies. A credit freeze must be lifted by a consumer if they decide they need new credit.  Freezing, lifting, and removing a credit freeze is free.

Equifax: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian: P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

An initial fraud alert notifies companies opening new credit in a customer’s name that their identity should be verified. The initial alert can be placed by calling one of the three credit reporting agencies; that agency is then responsible for contacting the other two agencies. Instituting an initial fraud alert is often a wise step if a customer is concerned that their personal information has been compromised due to a data breach.  This alert, which lasts for one year, can be requested by phone or online.

Equifax: 800-525-6285;
Experian: 888-397-3742;
TransUnion: 800-680-7289;

In addition, an extended fraud alert is available to victims of identity theft and lasts seven years.

What do I do if someone has used my medical benefits to obtain services?
Report this situation to your insurance company and medical provider. Your medical provider will likely have internal protocols to follow.

What should I do if I believe someone has obtained an Ohio Driver’s License or Ohio Identification Card using my identity?
Contact the Bureau of Motor Vehicles at or call 844-644-6268 (OHIOBMV).

How do I protect my information if my wallet or purse is lost or stolen?
File a police report with local law enforcement. Contact your credit card companies and banks (for debit and ATM cards) to close existing accounts and assign new account numbers. Obtain replacement identification. If you had insurance cards stolen, contact your insurance providers. If your Social Security card was stolen, notify the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or

What do I do if my personal information was used to file a fraudulent tax return?
If a federal tax return was filed, notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by filing IRS Form 14039. More information can be found at If an Ohio tax return was filed, notify the Ohio Department of Taxation by filing out its Identity theft affidavit.

What do I do if my passport was stolen?
Contact the U.S. Department of State through a field office or at

If my credit, debit, or ATM card is lost or stolen, and used for unauthorized transactions, how long do I have to report it to my credit card company or bank? What are my potential financial losses?
You should report all lost and stolen cards as well as unauthorized charges as soon as possible. With respect to reporting and liability limits, credit and debit cards fall under separate federal laws:
  • Credit cards fall under the Fair Credit Billing Act, where your liability cannot exceed $50. If you report the loss before any unauthorized transactions occur, or if your credit card number is stolen and not the physical card, you are not liable for any unauthorized purchases.
  • ATM and debit cards fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. If you report a missing or stolen card before someone uses it for unauthorized purchases, you are not liable. If your debit card number was used but not the physical card, you are not liable provided you report the incident within 60 days of when the monthly statement was mailed to you. If the physical ATM or debit card is lost or stolen, and charges are made prior to your report, your maximum liability depends on how quickly you report the issue.
    • If you report the incident within two business days after you discover the loss, you are liable for up to $50.
    • If you wait longer than two business days after you discover the loss but less than 60 calendar days after the monthly statement is sent to you, you are liable for up to $500.
    • If you wait more than 60 calendar days after the monthly statement is sent to you, you are liable for all of the unauthorized transactions

How can I get money back if my bank account or credit card was compromised?
If your bank account or credit card has been compromised, you should contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately. The sooner you make contact, the better your odds at getting the situation resolved.