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Press Release

Attorney General Josh Shapiro Kicks Off Consumer Protection Week with Western PA Residents Who Got Money Returned by Attorney General’s Office

March 6, 2017 | Topic: Consumers

PITTSBURGH — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today kicked off the Office of Attorney General’s participation in Consumer Protection Week by hosting a forum featuring three western Pennsylvania residents who were victimized by scams – but received restitution with the help of the Office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Shapiro and the local residents were joined at the East End Cooperative Ministry in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood by representatives from the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office, who detailed the consumer protection work their offices do, and provided tips for citizens to avoid scams in the future.

“Protecting Pennsylvania consumers from being victimized by scam artists is a top priority,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Whether that scam originates on the street corner or in a corporate board room, our staff will investigate it, root it out, and fight to get full restitution and justice for the consumer.”

Attorney General Shapiro was joined at today’s forum by June Balan of South Park, Shelley Mack of Penn Hills, and Beverly Black of West Mifflin, western Pennsylvania residents who became consumer victims, sought help from OAG’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP), and received full refunds with BCP’s help on their behalf.

Shapiro was also joined by Sarah Frasch, Director of OAG’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Jon Steiger, Federal Trade Commission regional director, and Tom Coke, of the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office. Steiger spoke of the kinds of complaints the FTC is handling in western Pennsylvania and across the Commonwealth. Coke detailed the kinds of scams that take place through the mail, and the Postal Inspector’s Office work in detecting and preventing them.

June Balan detailed the problems she had with a vendor she hired to do roofing work on her home. Balan contacted BCP, which intervened and obtained $2,500 restitution for her. Shelley Mack explained her problems after placing an online order for a consumer product, cancelling within the allowed time frame – but not getting her money back. BCP intervened for Mack and obtained a full refund. Black spoke of her dealings with a vendor she hired to fix her computer. When the package she purchased failed to fix it, she could not get a refund. CP’s involvement resulted in full restitution.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection received 19,500 consumer complaints in 2016, and has a hotline that Attorney General Shapiro urged consumers to call with their problems and report scams. The hotline is 1-800-441-2555. Consumers can also go to www.attorneygeneral.gov to file a complaint.

Today’s forum with the Attorney General kicks off a series of 35 community events that the Bureau of Consumer Protection is holding across Pennsylvania this week to engage consumers, hear their concerns and complaints, and offer BCP’s assistance.

“We’re here to help every consumer who needs us,” Shapiro said. “If you’ve been scammed, or believe you’ve received shoddy work from a contractor and can’t get your money back, call us. We’ll fight relentlessly for you to get the restitution and justice you deserve.”

Shapiro offered a series of tips for consumers to avoid scams and before signing vendor contracts.

Grandparent (Family Emergency) Tips

  • Spot imposters. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — from a text, a call, or email.
  • Talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. Slow down. Talk to a friend first.
  • Don’t wire money.
  • Vendors. Retail stores should watch for seniors purchasing multiple gift cards for large sums of cash. Honest vendors can help stop the scam before it happens.

Home Improvement Contractor Tips

  • Verify. Check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who’ve used a contractor. Look at sites that post ratings and reviews.
  • Registration. Check for qualifications, like licensing and registration.
  • Remember:
  • Home improvement contractor must provide you with a copy of the contract, free of charge.
  • You have the right to rescind any home improvement contract without penalty within three business days of signing.

In office just over a month, Attorney General Shapiro noted consumer protection actions that the Office of Attorney General has taken in that time:

  • A settlement with Western Union over scams resulting in $21.5 million in restitution for Pennsylvania residents who were harmed. In one case, a Manheim, PA resident sent $200,000 to a Jamaican lottery that didn’t exist.
  • Criminal charges against a Washington County funeral home director for taking $375,000 from 47 elderly clients who pre-paid their own funerals, then used the proceeds for gambling.
  • A federal court order blocking the merger of health care insurers Aetna and Humana. Aetna and Humana dropped the merger – ensuring more than 35,000 western PA residents will continue receiving affordable coverage.

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