Consumer fraud occurs when a company uses dishonest, deceptive business practices to trick a customer. By feeding the buyer false information about its product or service, or intentionally withholding important information, the business paints a misleading picture and ultimately scams the consumer out of his or her hard-earned money.
In today’s troubled economic climate, when millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to save as much as possible, unethical business practices wreak financial devastation upon millions of hard-working men and women. The consumer fraud attorneys of Whitney, LLP are committed to holding greedy, dishonest businesses accountable for the financial harm they cause to consumers, and take an aggressive approach to pursuing the maximum compensation possible for our clients. We are prepared to challenge business organizations that decides they are entitled to ignore state and federal laws protecting consumers’ legal and financial rights.
Our law firm is proud to represent communities throughout the city of Baltimore and its surrounding counties, including Federal Hill, Guilford, Charles Village, Waverly, Canton, Mt. Washington, Hampden, Glen, Harbor East, and Mt. Vernon. We offer free initial consultations, and will always keep your information private. Call the law offices of Whitney, LLP at (410) 583-8000 today to set up a free and confidential legal consultation.
Representing Victims of Consumer Fraud: Cases Our Attorneys Handle
Unfortunately, consumer fraud is an extremely widespread problem in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that nearly 26 million Americans – about a tenth of the adult population – fell victim to consumer fraud in 2011 alone.
Far from being an exception to this rule, Maryland struggles with one of the country’s highest rates of consumer fraud. According to a recent report by the Consumer Sentinel Network, which is part of the FTC, Maryland ranked sixth in the nation for the number of consumer fraud complaints per 100,000 people, with a total of nearly 34,000 complaints filed.
Consumer fraud can take many different forms. The Consumer Sentinel Network reports that the top 10 most common types of fraud complaints filed by Maryland consumers in 2013 involved:
- Banks and Lenders – 4,648 complaints (14%)
- Debt Collection – 3,369 complaints (10%)
- Impostor Scams – 2,173 complaints (6%)
- Automotive Complaints – 1,793 complaints (5%)
- Phone and Mobile Services – 1,554 complaints (5%)
- Prizes, Lotteries, and Sweepstakes – 1,209 complaints (4%)
- Home Shopping and Catalog Sales – 1,203 complaints (4%)
- TV and Electronic Media – 1,076 complaints (3%)
- Credit Cards – 1,075 complaints (3%)
- Internet Services – 998 complaints (3%)
Auto Dealer Fraud Complaints in Baltimore
Many of the clients who contact us need legal assistance with auto dealer fraud complaints. Some scam tactics commonly used by car dealers (and other types of businesses) include:
Forged Signatures – Dishonest car dealerships have no problem forging a customer’s signature to a contract that changes the sale price and other agreed upon numbers in order to generate more profit for the dealership. Whitney, LLP offers Maryland car buyers a Free Contract Review to find any forgeries that were committed by the dealership.
Bait-and-Switch – Bait-and-switch is a tactic where a company advertises a product or service that doesn’t actually exist. When the consumer shows up to purchase the product or service from the advertisement, a salesperson tells them it isn’t available, and directs them to a similar but more expensive product or service.
Deal Packing – Deal packing, or contract packing, occurs when a dealership misrepresents optional “add-on” features as being included with the vehicle in order to charge the consumer more money. These features are usually worthless, and typically include rust-proofing, paint protection, and other “protection packages.”
Lemons – A lemon is a defective used vehicle which is misrepresented as being in good or acceptable condition. The consumer doesn’t learn about the defect until the lemon has been purchased, at which point it’s already too late.
Lying About Credit – The dealership convinces the customer that his or her credit is worse than it actually is. The dealership will then tell the customer they don’t qualify for a low interest rate due to having “bad” credit, which usually leads the customer to accept a financing plan with a much higher interest rate.
Trade-In Fraud – Many people underestimate the trade-in value of their vehicles, and car dealerships are quick to exploit this weakness. Salespersons frequently tell consumers their car is “only worth” some amount significantly lower than its true value. The dealer then sells the trade-in for a much higher amount.
Numerous state and federal laws have been enacted to protect consumers’ rights, and, of equal if not greater importance, to empower defrauded consumers to seek refunds and other compensation from businesses which cause financial harm.
For instance, Maryland’s lemon laws require the dealership or manufacturer to repair motorcycles and passenger vehicles with certain types of defects within 30 days of receiving a complaint via certified mail. If the dealer or manufacturer cannot make adequate repairs, it may be obligated to refund the consumer or replace the vehicle altogether. At the federal level, some common consumer protection laws include the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act.
Together, this network of state and federal laws provides comprehensive legal protection for consumers. Companies which violate consumer protection laws may be subject to civil and even criminal penalties, depending on the nature and scope of the fraud which occurred. The attorneys of Whitney, LLP will fight hard to help you and your family recover the greatest amount of compensation possible. We have successfully applied Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act to the cases of many clients.
Even if you aren’t quite sure whether you’ve been a victim of consumer fraud, we encourage you to call our law offices at (410) 583-8000 to get free legal advice in a private consultation. We will answer your questions, explain your potential options, and help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a fraud victim in Maryland.