The Consumer Protection Division of the Merced County District Attorney's Office investigates and prosecutes unfair or dishonest practices. This ensures that Merced consumers are afforded a fair deal on the products and services they purchase and protects honest business people from dishonest competitors.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of Consumer Fraud, please take the time to click the link below, fill out the form and submit it the Merced District Attorney's Office.
Fraud Complaint Form
Some examples of fraudulent business practices are:
- False Advertising: It is illegal to sell goods or services through the use of untrue or misleading statements. False ads might represent "sale" or "special" prices, the features of a product or the availability of goods. The advertiser is at fault if the ad has the tendency to mislead, even if there is no intent to defraud from the seller. Always read ads carefully and watch out for any fine print at the bottom.
- Deceptive Sales Practices: Examples of these include the "hard sell," where high pressure tactics and half-truths are used to force a hasty purchase and the "bait-and-switch," where consumers are lured into a store with an appealing ad and then persuaded to purchase a more expensive item.
- Health Fraud: Quack remedies for serious illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS and arthritis are dangerous and can divert a patient from proven treatments. A drug or medical device must be proven "safe and effective," and sellers must be able to prove health claims. Both "diet plans" and dubious food supplements can cost you good money and possibly your health.
- Fraud Aimed at Minority Communities: Con artists sometimes focus on minority communities, hoping to take advantage of language or cultural differences. Examples of this include bogus immigration "specialists," unfulfilled promises to transmit money overseas, and failure to provide a Spanish-language contract when a sale is made in Spanish.
- Unfair Competition: The Merced District Attorney prosecutes businesses which take unfair advantage of their honest competitors. Agreements to fix prices, boycott competitors, or eliminate competition are unlawful. The District Attorney's Office works to ensure a level playing field for all Merced businesses.
Consumer Fraud Prevention Tips
- Never pay for anything in advance.You may get asked by someone to pay for their work in advance, or told that you have won a prize, but have to pay taxes on that prize before you get it. If you fall for this, they will most likely take your money and you will never see them again.
- Don't deposit a check and wire money back. A common way fraudsters get people to fall for this is they will send you a check for "too much" with instructions for you to wire them the "overpayment" back. The check that you will deposit is most likely a fraudulent check, but can take up to weeks for your bank to catch it. When it is caught, YOU will be responsible for paying the bank back
- Don't always believe your caller ID. Technology makes it a little too easy for scammers to falsify the name and number that you see when your phone rings. No matter who you think is calling, never give out your personal information or money over the phone. More than likely the real person or business they are posing as will NEVER call and ask you for this information over the phone. Listen to your gut and HANG UP if you are uncomfortable.
- Never let anyone into your home. Use your peephole to try to identify who is at your door before opening it. Always ask for identification and make sure that it matches the company they claim to work for. Be cautious if you did not call and make an appointment if they are claiming to be a repairman. Have the unexpected person wait outside while you contact the company they claim to work for. Make sure you look up the phone number and do not use the one on their business card, as it may be part of the scam.
Important Fraud and Scam Links
Contractors State License Board
The Contractors State License Board protects consumers by regulating the construction industry through policies that promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the public in matter relating to construction. By visiting this website as a consumer, you can check a license, hire a contractor or file a complaint. By visiting as a contractor, you can apply to become a licensed contractor, check your application status, and see complaints filed against you.
California Department of Consumer Affairs
If you visit this site, you will find fraud alerts, press releases, and a portal to check licenses of various regulated professionals.
California Attorney General (Protecting Consumers)