Money and Debt

Protecting yourself from consumer fraud

Consumer fraud happens when a business misleads or lies to you about their goods or services, so you suffer a loss. If you are a victim of consumer fraud, learn what you can do to make it right.

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Understanding the Basics

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You have rights when you’re buying common products and services, like a car, home improvement or internet service.

Businesses can’t be unfair or misleading when they’re selling to you. For example:

  • A business promises one thing but delivers another. Like if you order a brand-new phone online and they send you a refurbished one instead.
  • A business charges you for something and delivers nothing. Like if you pay a contractor to do work on your home but they never start or finish the work.

How to avoid consumer problems

There are a few proactive steps you can take when you make a deal with a business. To protect yourself, you should:

  • Research the business. For information about a business’s reputation, ask the Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau. If you’re buying a car, research the car’s history at and look for any recalls at
  • Get everything in writing. Save all important documents, including written estimates, invoices, work orders, guarantees, warranties and other contracts.
  • Buyer beware. It’s important to understand the rules that apply to a purchase. For example, you cannot return a car after you drive off the lot at most dealers. If you buy a car “as is,” you are responsible for any repairs.
  • If you do not understand a contract, do not sign it. Never sign anything under pressure, or anything that you don’t understand or has blank spaces.
  • Know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are the victim of consumer fraud

If you experience consumer problems, you should:

  • Contact the business. Contact the business in writing, like through email or an online customer service form. Describe your problem and tell the business how they could solve it. Include copies of relevant documents, but always keep the originals.
  • Submit a report. If the business does not help you, you can report the problem to the Ohio Attorney General's Office at or (800) 282-0515. Next, wait for a specialist to contact you and the business to find a solution.
  • In Cuyahoga County, you can also go to the county Department of Consumer Affairs. You can find their contact information on this page under “Government and Community Resources.” They can help you resolve the problem with the business.

Forms and Letters

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