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Published: Tuesday, 3/9/2010

Ohio Attorney general warns against scams

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, foreground, addresses a consumer-protection fair at the main library.  Mayor Mike Bell, center, and Better Business Bureau President Richard Eppstein also spoke. Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, foreground, addresses a consumer-protection fair at the main library. Mayor Mike Bell, center, and Better Business Bureau President Richard Eppstein also spoke.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

Consumer scams are on the rise, so much so that Ohioans need to be more vigilant than ever, state Attorney General Richard Cordray said Monday in Toledo.

“Simply put, there are bad actors in the system who are using shady practices to enrich themselves,” Mr. Cordray said at the main Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown.

The Ohio attorney general was here to help highlight the start of National Consumer Protection Week, and announce the addition of a new feature on the state's Web site to make it easier to learn about the most recent consumer scams and how to report scammers.

He was joined by Toledo Mayor

Mike Bell, Lucas County Sheriff James Telb, County Commissioner Pete Gerken, and local Better Business Bureau head Richard Eppstein.

The library held a consumer protection fair for three hours yesterday afternoon to offer consumers information on how to protect their identity and other valuable information.

Mr. Cordray said last year his office fielded a record number of complaints — 30,259, an increase of 20 percent from 2008 — ranging from foreclosure-rescue and debt collection scams to home improvement, auto, and cybercrime problems. Through complaint resolution and lawsuits, the state was able to obtain $7 million in consumer restitution, civil penalties, costs, and other relief, he said.

He staged Ohio's first statewide summit last week on consumer protection, which drew over 300 consumer advocates and activists. Yesterday, Mr. Cordray also announced the addition of a “real-time scam alert widget” to his office's Web site, www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov.

The Web site tool provides instant updates about scams. It can be embedded or linked to other Web sites or social networking pages.

At the library function, Mayor Bell urged consumers to be vigilant on their credit profiles.

“If something seems fishy, it most likely is,” he said.

Both the mayor and Sheriff Telb urged consumers to report any suspicious offers or services. “If it's suspicious, call 9-1-1. There will be somebody there to take the information,” the sheriff said.

Mr. Eppstein said his agency is pleased that Mr. Cordray has placed a high emphasis on catching scammers because the situation is worse than ever, with scams that allegedly help reduce debt, credit card bills, and taxes.

“The business community wants an ethical marketplace,” Mr. Eppstein said. “Scammers cheat businesses.”

Contact Jon Chavez at:jchavez@theblade.comor 419-724-6128.



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