What is Consumer Fraud?
A widely cited one-sentence definition of consumer fraud describes it as “deceptive practices that result in financial or other losses for consumers in the course of seemingly legitimate business transactions.” Examples include
- Identity theft
- Credit card fraud
- Nonexistent goods or real estate, including items and property the purported seller does not own
- Misrepresented risks and benefits for financial investments
- Email and telephone scams
- Counterfeit goods, especially prescription medications sold through websites that lack the VIPPS certification
- Pyramid and Ponzi schemes
- Bait-and-switch sales and pricing
- Abusive sales practices such as making threats or pressuring a buyer until he or she acts against their own best interest
The deceptive practices employed to commit these types of consumer fraud amount to lying. Scammers set up fake websites, make harassing phone calls, prevent potential victims from leaving a sales pitch, and provide false information when asked for names and contact information. Promises are broken, items never arrive, dividends never get paid. In counterfeiting cases, victims often suffer physical harm in addition to monetary losses.
What You Can Do About Consumer Fraud
Most instances of consumer fraud constitute crimes. Reporting fraudsters to the police and the Consumer Protection Division of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office are essential. The best way for victims to receive compensation and justice, however, involves working with a Cleveland, Ohio, consumer fraud injury attorney to file an intentional tort lawsuit.
“Tort” means “harm” in legalese. When a company or an individual intends to cause harm, that organization or person can be held liable in court. Fraud is definitely an intentional act, and the damage is often undeniable. By filing a claim against the perpetrator of a consumer fraud, a plaintiff can recover.
- Compensatory damages such as the amount paid to the fraudster, interest on that amount, medical expenses for health care related to the fraud, legal expenses, and wages that were lost while recovering from the fraud
- Noneconomic damages for the emotional and psychological suffering induced by falling victim to fraud
- Punitive damages, which are noncriminal fines imposed to punish the fraudster and deter others from engaging in similar fraudulent activities
Pursuing a consumer fraud lawsuit is not always easy. Positively identifying the most appropriate defendant represents the first challenge. A plaintiff must then fully document the occurrence and monetary value of all claimed harms. The last stage includes a lengthy legal proceeding that can require months or years of depositions, negotiations, and an arbitration hearing or trial in civil court.
Consulting with a caring and experienced Cleveland consumer fraud lawyer from the earliest days of trying to hold a company or individual accountable for defrauding you is essential. While consumers have protections, so do businesses and salespeople. Taking full advantage of your legal rights while overcoming barriers to discovering evidence that supports your case requires skill and persistence. Many perpetrators of consumer fraud actually rely on stalling tactics to exhaust plaintiffs. That will not work on a well-staffed law firm.
The intentional tort attorneys in the Cleveland offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman may be able to help you with a consumer fraud claim. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call (800) 678-3318.