Attorney General DeWine Releases Top Consumer Complaint Categories of 2015

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today released the top categories of complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section in 2015, when more than 27,000 complaints were recorded.

“Through our complaint process, we’ve helped people solve disputes, secure refunds, and clear fraudulent charges,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We encourage consumers to contact us when they think they’ve been treated unfairly or when they need help solving a problem.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section works with individuals, businesses, and nonprofits to resolve complaints through informal dispute resolution. According to complaint information, more than $2.4 million was returned or adjusted in 2015 through complaint resolution.

The 2015 top complaint categories were:

  1. Motor vehicles
  2. Professional services
  3. Collections, credit reporting, or financial services
  4. Shopping, food, or beverages
  5. Utilities, phone, Internet, or TV
  6. Home or property improvement
  7. Identity theft
  8. Potential scams or other (such as sweepstakes, do-not-call issues, or grant offers)

Nearly a quarter of all complaints involved motor vehicles. The most common motor-vehicle complaint related to used vehicle sales. Other top motor-vehicle complaints involved vehicle repairs and new vehicle sales.

Identity theft complaints continued to rise in 2015, when more consumers sought assistance from the office’s Identity Theft Unit, which works with creditors and other agencies to correct problems resulting from identity theft. In 2015, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received more than 1,670 identity theft complaints, an increase of more than 300 from the previous year. It also helped victims clear more than $658,000 in fraudulent charges, according to identity-theft complaint information.

Other areas of concern cited among the top complaint categories were collections calls, wireless services, sweepstakes or prizes, cable/bundling, and in-store or online shopping issues.

Consumer complaints can be filed online at http://www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by phone at 800-282-0515.

KNOW YOUR ROLE ON SUPER BOWL 50

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Are You Drinking?

If so, don’t drive. Follow these tips to have fun, stay alive, and avoid getting pulled over or crashing your vehicle on game day.

  • Before Super Bowl Sunday, make a game plan that includes a sober driver – someone who will not be drinking at all.
  • Use NHTSA’s new SaferRide mobile app. The app helps people who have been drinking get a safe ride home by helping users call a taxi or a friend and by identifying their location so they can be picked up. The app is available for Android devices on Google Play, and Apple devices on the iTunes store.
  • Leave your keys at home and designate a sober driver.
  • Consider getting a sober ride – ride share or taxi – to your destination, so you won’t even have the option later to drive impaired.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol too fast. Pace yourself. Eat plenty of food, take breaks, and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Stop drinking after the third quarter, just like they do at the actual stadium.
  • Make sure your designated driver is sober, not just less intoxicated than you.
  • Tweet your designated driver’s name to NHTSA to make their Wall of Fame.
  • Don’t let others drive drunk. Arrange a safe way for them to get home, too.
  • If you don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home; book a ride share, call a cab, friend, or family member to come get you; or if possible stay where you are for the night and don’t drive until you are sober.
  • When you ride home with your sober driver, wear your seat belt. It’s your best defense in a crash.
  • Walking impaired can be dangerous. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.

Or Are You Driving?

If so, don’t drink. Your responsible choices can save lives.

  • Take your role seriously as the designated sober driver—don’t drink and drive.
  • Enjoy the party with food and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Brag about your MVP status on social media using the hashtag #designateddriver.
  • Or during Super Bowl 50, tweet your name to NHTSA, and make their designated driver Wall of Fame.
  • Wear your seat belt and require your passengers to do the same.
  • If someone you know has been drinking and tries to drive, take their keys and help them get home safely. They’ll thank you later. Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.

Are You Hosting a Super Bowl Party?

If so, you’re the team captain! Designate a responsible driver now to help your guests get home safely.

  • Ask all of your guests to designate their sober drivers in advance, or help them arrange ride-sharing with sober drivers. If you don’t drink, offer to drive guests home.
  • Encourage your drinking guests to pace themselves.
  • Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages at the party.
  • Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter—this is a good time to serve coffee and dessert.
  • Thank the designated sober drivers at your party. You could even acknowledge them on social media using the hashtag #designateddriver.
  • Provide incentive—designated driver Wall of Fame.
  • Sign up online for a ride sharing service and keep the phone numbers of local cab companies on hand and take the keys away from any guests who are thinking of driving after drinking.
  • Remember, if you serve a guest alcohol and he or she gets in a crash that night, you could be held liable.
  • If an underage person drinks and drives, the parent or guardian can be legally liable for any damage, injury or death caused by the underage driver.
  • Likewise, parents or other adults who provide alcohol to – or host a party where alcohol is available to – those under age 21, could face jail time.

 

Are You Aware of the Risks? 

Drunk driving is a serious problem with serious consequences. Don’t become a Super Bowl stat.

  • In 2014 alone, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes, 31 percent of all crash fatalities.
  • An average of 1 alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 53 minutes in 2014.
  • Drunk drivers face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court costs, car towing and repairs, and lost wages due to time off from work.
  • The average DUI case costs approximately $10,000.
  • Refusing to take a breath test in many jurisdictions results in immediate arrest, the loss of your driver’s license on the spot and the impoundment of your vehicle. Also, there’s the added embarrassment, humiliation, and consequences of telling family, friends and employers of your arrest.
  • If you injure or kill someone in a drunk-driving crash, it’s something you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life.

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing and Trespass Prevention

The U.S. railroad system consists of over 750 railroads running on 140,000 miles of track. Every day trains travel across more than 212,000 highway-rail grade crossings.

A Grade Crossing is a location where a public highway, road, street, or private roadway, including associated sidewalks, and pathways, crosses railroad tracks at grade (same level as the street). There are over 38,000 locations were railroad tracks and roadways cross at different levels.

There have been about 270 deaths a year at public and private grade crossings. FRA, through the efforts of its Highway-Rail Crossing and Trespasser Prevention Division is committed to reducing that number. With the assistance of FRA’s programs, the number of fatalities has gone down by 54 percent over the last two decades.

Trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America. Nationally, more than 445 trespass fatalities occur each year, and nearly as many injuries, the vast majority of which are preventable.

The reality is that nearly every 165 minutes in America, someone is hit by a train. Combined, highway-rail crossing and trespasser deaths account for 96 percent of all rail-related deaths and most of these deaths are avoidable.

Go directly to Train Horn, Whistle Ban and Quiet Zone for information on how to qualify for a Quiet Zone.

Federal funding for installing automatic warning devices and other improvements for public highway-rail crossings is managed by the Federal Highway Administration and commonly referred to as the Section 130 program. Click hereExternal Link for more information on Section 130 and information on State Action Plans to improve highway-rail grade crossing safety.

Click here to find the most common questions we get about the Grade Crossing Inventory Program.

To assist states and railroads in determining effective allocations of federal funds for rail-highway crossing improvements, FRA has developed the Rail-Highway Resource Allocation Procedure. This guide provides information for applying the procedure. See documents at right in the e-Library for more details.

Attorney General DeWine Warns Consumers to Avoid Lottery Scams as Jackpot Rises

scam(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned consumers to avoid lottery and sweepstakes scams as the estimated Powerball jackpot hits $800 million.

In the past month, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than two dozen complaints involving sweepstakes or prize scams. The average reported loss is about $5,000.

“If you receive a call saying you’ve won the lottery, it’s almost always a scam,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Con artists play on what’s in the news, so we’re warning people to be wary of scams as the Powerball jackpot grows.”

The scams often begin with a phone call or a letter claiming the consumer has won a few million dollars through a lottery or sweepstakes. In order to collect the winnings, consumers are told to wire a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to cover fees or taxes. In reality, they haven’t won a prize, and any money they send will be lost.

Individuals who send money once usually will be contacted again and asked to send more money to cover taxes, customs fees, or other costs supposedly associated with delivering the winnings. As long as the victim continues to send money, the scam artist will keep calling.

Signs of a lottery scam include:

  • Winning a lottery you don’t remember entering.
  • Receiving calls from a lottery or government agency saying you’ve won millions.
  • Receiving an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars.
  • Having to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
  • Having to send money via wire transfer or prepaid card.

Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to take the following steps to avoid scams:

  • Be very skeptical of someone who calls you and says you’ve won the lottery. These calls are almost always scams.
  • Don’t wire money or pay a fee to receive your winnings.
  • Don’t give out your personal information to someone who contacts you unexpectedly over the phone or through email.
  • Be skeptical if you are asked to call an out-of-country phone number in connection with a lottery or sweepstakes win.
  • Be skeptical if you receive an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars. It could be a counterfeit check used as part of a scam.
  • If you have older relatives or friends, look for signs that they have been targeted by lottery scams. Red flags include unusual banking activities, wire transfer receipts, or an increased number of phone calls made to them.

Consumers should report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.

Safe Ride Home Designated Driver Program scheduled for New Year’s Eve

 

The annual Safe Ride Home program will be provided as a community service by Grace Community Church in combined effort with WBNO-WQCT Radio Station and the Williams County Safe Communities Coalition.

On New Year’s Eve from 9:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. volunteers from Grace Community Church will provide designated drivers with pick up from any home, party, bar, or organization in Williams County and provide a safe ride home to locations within Williams County.  Call 419-636-5449 for a Safe Ride Home on New Year’s Eve

Con Artists Bank on Credit Card Chip Confusion

Many banks are issuing new debit and credit cards with an embedded chip for additional security. The new chips are meant to reduce fraud, but the hype around the new cards is having an unintended side effect… fodder for scams.

How the Scam Works:

You receive an email saying that your new credit or debit card with the chip is on the way. But first you need to update your account. The message seems to be from your bank or credit card issuer. It may have the company’s logo and even the reply email address.

All you need to do, claims the message, is reply and confirm your personal and banking information. Or, in another version, the message instructs you to click on a link to continue the process.

Don’t do it! If you share personal information, the scammer can use it to commit identity theft. If you click on the link, you may download malware to your device. Scammers use malware to steal your personal information, send spam and commit fraud.

Tips to Spot a Phishing Scam:

• Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments. Do not click on links or open files in unfamiliar emails.

• Consider how the company normally contacts you. If a company usually contacts you by phone, be suspicious if you suddenly start receiving emails or text messages without ever opting in to the new communications. Banks and credit card issuers have secure communications channels that require you to log into your account before you can read the message.

• Don’t believe what you see. Just because an email looks real, doesn’t mean it is. Scammers can fake anything from a company logo to the “Sent” email address.

• Check the company’s website or call them. If something sounds suspicious, confirm it by checking with the bank or credit card issuer. The customer service phone number will be on the back of the card. If you want to look on the company’s website, look for the URL on your statement or do a web search. DON’T click on any links in the message you suspect is a scam.

• Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of messages that don’t contain your name, last digits of your account number or other personalizing information.

National Teen Driver Safety Week

NT01-41330-Teen-Ads-350x300  Bryan Ohio Police are joining with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to promote the “5 to Drive” campaign during National Teen Driver Safety Week. The campaign aims to help parents talk to their teen drivers about the rules of the road.

“Even though your teens might be gaining some independence and getting older, protecting them from harm shouldn’t stop now,” said Community Relations Officer Matt Arnold. “The ‘5 to Drive’ campaign will give parents the tools they need to keep their teen drivers safe.”

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for U.S. teens 15 to 19 years old. In 2013, 2,614 teen (15-19 year old) passenger vehicle drivers were involved in fatal crashes.

The “5 to Drive” campaign addresses the five most dangerous and deadly behaviors for teen drivers. The idea behind the campaign is to give parents the words to use when they talk with their teens about the rules of the road. NHTSA’s website, http://www.safercar.gov/parents, has detailed information and statistics about the five rules designed to help save the lives of teen drivers.

The “5 to Drive” rules for parents to share with their teens are:

  1. No Drinking and Driving – almost one out of five (19 percent) of the young drivers (15 to 19 years old) involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, even though they were too young to legally buy or possess alcohol.
  2. Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. Front Seat and Back. – 64 percent of all the young (13- to 19-year-old) passengers of teen (15- to 19-year-old) drivers who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 weren’t restrained.
  3. Put It Down. One Text or Call Could Wreck It All. – The age group of 15 to 19 years old has the highest percentage of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use and involved in a fatal crash. In 2013, 318 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted teen driver.
  4. Stop Speeding Before It Stops You – In 2013, almost one-third (29 percent) of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding.
  5. No More Than One Passenger at a Time. – The risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional passenger.

Teen drivers need to follow these rules and any other restrictions outlined in Ohio’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) law. Parents need to outline rules and explain to their teens the deadly consequences of unsafe driving practices. The “5 to Drive” campaign can help parents start that conversation.

“We are hoping that Teen Driver Safety Week and the ‘5 to Drive’ campaign will get the word out to all parents of teens,” Matt Arnold said. “Don’t stop protecting them now that they can drive. They need you now more than ever.”