Consumer Scams Article

Consumer Protection - How to Avoid Scams

Americans lose an estimated $40 billion a year in telemarketing fraud alone, and another $4 billion in mail scams. And the victims are often seniors. You could be approached through the mail, by telephone, via e-mail or at your front door. Know your rights and how you might be vulnerable. As the old adage goes: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Beware of consumer scams

Please beware of scams of people trying to take money from you – some examples are “winning” the Canadian lottery and needing to send a check for $50,000 so that they can send the proceeds of the lottery to you. Once the check is mailed and has cleared, it can be impossible to retrieve.

Another scam is an email or letter about money from Nigeria (or wherever) about the need to have an account to deposit that money. You would then keep part and send them part. Of course, they simply strip YOUR account of all money in it. Other common scams include:

Charitable Donation Con: Watch out for fake charities. Certain charities must register with the Secretary of State. To find out if a charity is registered, call (602) 542-6670 or (800) 458-5842 (In-state toll free) or visit Keep in mind that registration does not guarantee the charity is worthy or legitimate. If you have questions or suspicions about a charity or a fundraiser before donating, you may also contact the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at (602) 542-5763 (Phoenix), (520) 628-6504 (Tucson), or (800) 352-8431 (Outside Phoenix and Tucson) or visit the Attorney General on-line for the latest warnings and information. You could also check with your local Better Business Bureau on-line or at (602) 264-1727 or toll free at (877) 291-6222.

Door-to-Door Solicitation: Ask to see a business permit. (Most cities require one.) Resist pressure to buy anything on the spot. Contact the Better Business Bureau to check out the business. To report a fraud, call the police or county district attorney’s office.

Financial Advisors and Investment Scams: Beware of investment seminars touting get-rich quick schemes. Check out the “investment” before investing.

Funeral and Cemetery Fraud: Watch out for high-priced sales pitches. Check with your local Better Business Bureau as well.

Home Repair/Home Improvement: It may sound like a good deal. A repairman will fix your roof with “leftover” materials from another job. You pay cash—and he does a shoddy job or nothing at all. Or, a plumber fixes your clogged toilet and presents you with a $10,000 bill. Before hiring a contractor, get several estimates, check references and put everything in writing. Be aware that your home cannot be used as collateral in a home improvement contract if you are 65 or older.

Contact the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to check the contractor’s license and any past complaints (602) 542-1525 TTD (602) 542-1588 or toll-free outside Maricopa County (888) 271-9286. Such contractors must be licensed.

Medicare Fraud: Never give your Medicare number to a stranger. Always check your

Medicare statement to verify that you actually received the services charged to Medicare. If you suspect provider fraud, call Medicare's toll free Hotline at (800) 633-4227.


Living Trust Mills: Beware of “trust mill” marketing schemes in which salespeople pose as experts in estate planning to gain your trust and confidence. These unqualified “experts” seek to obtain your personal financial information with the ulterior motive of selling you both a living trust and an annuity, which may not be appropriate for you. Such tactics may violate insurance code laws and laws prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law. To report a scam, call your local District Attorney's Office.

Telemarketing/Mail /Internet Fraud: It can be difficult to distinguish legitimate telemarketers and e-mail solicitations from those that are not. Never provide personal information or send money to solicitors who contact you first. Instead, simply hang up or insist on calling the individual back after you have had time to check out the solicitation. Also, steer clear of any caller or mailer announcing that you have won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery and simply need to pay a “fee” or “tax” to collect your winnings. (The cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets is illegal—and so is any advance charge for collecting the prize.) For information on filing a complaint, contact the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at (888) 377-6108  or the Arizona Better Business Bureau at (602) 264-1727 or (877) 291-6222.

Other types of scams include real estate predatory lending scams and credit repair/credit card insurance sales scams. Some seniors may even give someone a power of attorney and then find out that he or she has stolen their savings.



  • My wife and I are retired seniors. She brought home a flyer from the mailbox advertising a Handyman. Our evaporative cooler stopped working. This man came over and said he could fix it for $210.59. The next day he came back and after looking around for a while he said they don't make these kind of control boxes anymore. He came over that night with a friend of his, John, and they both decided they would have to look for the parts. The next day they both came back with a computer. Jim sat at the computer and started rattling off numbers to John who was using a calculator. After much running in and out to the cooler it was decided that the job would cost $1055.29. My wife and I looked at each other and decided we couldn't live without a cooler in Arizona. I asked Jim how much of a down payment he would need and he said all except $100.00 to buy the parts. I wrote out the check to Jim's Handyman Service. The next morning he called and said three of them had to go to Phoenix to get the parts but he would have to stop by my house first because they would not take a check made out to his business. I thought it strange that someone would run a business using personal checks but wrote out one to Jim Petty which my wife brought out to the gate and exchanged it for the business check. Therefore I never received a receipt for the $745.29 check. That afternoon they called me on the way back from Phoenix and told me that they would be at my house at 8:30 that night to install the parts. I reluctantly agreed and thought it very strange that they wanted to install the parts in the dark. At 9:45 pm the phone rang and they were at our front gate. I told them we were going to bed to come back in the morning. At 7:30 the next morning they were installing the parts into the cooler which included a new thermostat that was previously mentioned to cost between $300 and $400 alone. They finished the job by 9:30, I paid Jim the last $100 and they left. We had no instructions for the thermostat and only two scribbled over work orders mentioning $210.00,$118.00 and 109.00 in various spots on the work orders. We never received a contract, warranty, nothing! After the cooler started to cool the house down we found out it would not shut off or on automatically once it reached the ambient temperature. I called Lowe's and a man tried to help us because they sold that kind of thermostat but eventually said he couldn't help us because he would have to see how the control box was wired and that it was probably wired wrong. I called Jim and asked for an itemized invoice. He agreed but I never heard from him again. He also has not responded to my e mail messages. On one of the scribbled work orders was written a 10 year warranty on parts and labor and 5 years on the computer (if you can read it.) I only signed one of the work orders. This person has "Jesus is Lord" printed under his name on his business card. If you ask me that's all part of the scam. He and his friend John have no intention, that I can, see of ever contacting me. If I could, I would attach a picture of the 'kit' he installed. It all comes in one box and all the 'so called' parts including the thermostat cost $149.99!
  • I am a victim of a ponzi scheme, lost all my money, am being sued by a friend, as if I was responsible, for fraud in Phoenix. Have spent countless hours trying to find an attorney to answer the complaint before it goes to a default judgement. Need desperately to talk to counsel.
  • My father who is 70 years old was approached by a Phoenix company. How do I find out if this company is legitimate? I think it's a scam and want to convince my Dad - as he is already filling out the paperwork. Thank you for your help in this matter.
  • a man is demanding I pay him for assisting me in selling a house I sold "by owner" I he is not licensed. He claims we had an oral agreement that I would pay him rather then hiring a realtor He is suing me for $5000
  • How many days can a contract be cancelled?
  • This scam is of a different nature. A seemingly nice looking man contacted me on Myspace with all the sweet words, found I was living on SSI and offered me a job. The job was what caught my attention, and this job is posted elsewhere, to buy certain "materials list" of a particular printer, ink, software to print so called payroll checks. He also offered me a chance to buy stock into I have all his info where he wanted me to send the money by Money Gram. He also wanted my acct number to pay me for my work. They would send the "materials list" to me if I would like to invest. Since this is of a different nature, do I report it to AZ Attorney General or US?
  • How can I avoid being solicited by telemarketers and marketing mail?
  • Signed a contract with vacation club & they breached it in my opinion.I wanted $ back right away but have gotten runaround.I have been trying to end it since the first week, & now it's 2 1/2 months & no luck. I have documented everything; do I have any rights in this scam?
  • After filing a "notice of claim" at the state attorney general's office, how much time does the state's attorney have to respond ?
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  • Please select your county of residence below.



  • State Bar of Arizona
  • Maricopa County Bar
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program