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Consumer Law Resources

Consumer Law Resources

Consumer Fraud

What is Consumer Fraud?

“Fraud” is defined as a deliberate deception used to secure unfair, or unlawful, gain or to damage another individual. Consumer fraud encompasses a wide range of deceptive practices in advertising, marketing, sales and the provision of goods and services.
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Some examples of fraud include: 

  • When a product or service does not perform in the manner it was advertised, or represented, to perform. 
  • When a company overcharges, charges consumers improperly or conceals hidden charges for a product or service. 
  • When a company improperly imposes unfair terms and conditions in standard form contracts in a manner unfairly disadvantageous to consumers. 
  • When a corporation markets a product as safe, when the corporation has reason to believe the product is dangerous when used as directed.

What Can I Do If I am a Victim of Fraud?

​Within the City of Chicago, consumer fraud may be reported to the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection through its website (https://www.cityofchicago.org/bacp), or by dialing 3-1-1. 

Chicago-Area Consumer Fraud Legal Resources

Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) 

11 E. Adams, Ste. 500, Chicago, IL 60603 

Contact: Marilyn Smith 

ccr@ccrchicago.org

www.ccrchicago.org 

Tel. 312.922.6464

​​Fax. 312.922.6463 


Chicago Legal Clinic (CLC) 

www.clclaw.org

Tel. (773) 731-1762 

Fax 312.731.4264 


Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS) 
100 N. LaSalle St, Ste. 900
Chicago, IL 60602 
Mon to Thur: 9a.m. to 5p.m., Fri: 9a.m. to 4p.m. 
Contact: Margaret C. Benson, Executive Director 
www.cvls.org
Tel. 312.332.1624 
Fax 312.332.1460 

Coordinated Volunteer Legal Services (CARPLS) 
Legal advice Hotline: (312) 738-9200 
Mon to Fri: 9a.m. to 4:30p.m., Wed: 9a.m. to 7:30p.m. 
17 N. State St, Ste.1850 
Chicago, IL 60602 
Contact: Rise Terney, Executive Director
info@carpls.org 
www.carpls.org
Tel. 312.738.9200 

Dial Law Tape
www.chicagobar.org/public/diallaw/diallaw.asp 
Tel.312.554.2001 
Text. 312.747.4304 

llinois Legal Aid Online 

17 N. State St, Ste. 1590

Chicago, IL 60602 

www.illinoislegalaid.org 

Tel. 312.977.9047 


Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAFMC) 

111 W. Jackson Blvd, Third floor

Chicago, IL 60604 

Contact: Sheldon H. Roodham, Executive Director

lafmcgo@nextalk.net 

www.lafchicago.org 

Tel. 312.341.1070

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Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

Personal data has become a hot commodity among bad actors.  Thieves can use information such as you social security number, date of birth, drivers' license number, and other personal identifiers to open credit cards in your name, change addresses for your accounts, redirect payments, redirect bills, and more.  Such malicious ​activity can have serious negative effects on your credit. ​​

What Can I Do If I am Concerned my Identity has been Stolen?

If you are worried your personal information may have been stolen:

  • Keep a close eye on your checking account, credit card statements, and your credit report, and promptly note any irregularities. 

  • Immediately call the companies where fraudulent transactions have taken place and ask them to close or freeze your accounts.

  • Change any logins, passwords, or PINs for accounts that have been affected. 

  • If a credit card has been used to facilitate fraud, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, & Equifax) to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The other two bureaus will automatically place an alert once one of them is notified. A fraud alert will stop anyone from opening a credit card in your name. More info here

  • Report the fraud to the FTC (online or phone (877) 438-4338) and local law enforcement (Illinois Attorney General online or phone (866) 999-5630). 

  • Use the resources provided by the FTC to create and implement a recovery plan. 


Financial Scams

Avoid Falling Victim to a Scam

  • Protect your information, including passwords, card numbers, and sensitive paperwork, by shredding unneeded documents, restricting access to your information on social media, and downloading responsibly.
  • Don't fall for deals that are too good to be true - scammers can target young people by selling business partnerships for pyramid schemes, scholarship deals for personal information, travel scams, and phishing scams posing as your bank, utility company, or the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Do your research before investing in companies or sending your information to anyone - sometimes a quick Google search can save yourself from months of issues.

Source: Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Avoiding Scams 101

Have you Been Affected by a Scam?

  • Illinois and the City of Chicago have offices to protect consumers from fraudulent practices. Check out the Illinois Office of the Attorney General's Fraud Hotline - (800) 386-5438 and the Chicago Division of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (find their Consumer Fraud Complaint form here)
  • If you have become the victim of a scam, you can report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via its online Complaint Assistant. If you lost money in a scam, review the FTC's advice on how to get your money back.
  • If the scam involved a business, you can report it to the Better Business Bureau so others might not fall victim.
  • If the scam was committed online, you can report it to the FBI via their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Building and Maintaining Good Credit

How Can I Check My Credit Score?

Obtain your credit score for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.  Y​ou are entitled to receive ​one free report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, & Equifax) every 12 months​.

What DePaul Resources are Available to Help me With Credit Issues?

Please visit the univerity's Financial Fitness website for helpful information about Establishing Good Credit, as well as advice on choosing the right credit card.​​ 

What External Resources Can Help Me Build Better Credit?

​Nerdwallet is an app that can assist you with finding credit cards that fit your needs, and better understanding your credit score. This service also helps locate savings accounts with the best interest rates and tracks your spending to keep you on budget​. 


Bankruptcy

What is Bankruptcy?

​Bankruptcy is a process that helps debtors who are unable to pay their creditors legally discharge their debts. There are two main types of bankruptcy:

  • Chapter 7, which wipes out all eligible debts (medical, utility, credit card, and all personal loan bills, excluding child support, spousal maintenance, and student loans); and
  • Chapter 13, which allows the debtor to propose a plan to repay ​his/her debts .

An individual is only eligible to file for bankruptcy once every 8 years.  

Could You Be "Judgement Proof?"

If you have no income, take home less than $371.25 a week, or if your income is contingent upon public benefits like Social Security or child support, and you do not own a home, car, or expensive personal property, you may be considered "judgment proof." 

This means that bill collectors and creditors cannot legally force you to pay anything. The debts still exist. But, if you can slowly but surely pay your debts and get back on your feet, you may be able to avoid filing bankruptcy. More information about being judgement proof is available here

If you believe that you are judgement proof, inform bill collectors and seek relief by using forms available through Illinois Legal Aid Online​​​. ​

How Will Bankruptcy Affect My Credit?

Before filing for bankruptcy, you should make certain that it is the best option for you.  Visit Debt.org for more information about what bankruptcy is, whether it is the right choice, whether your debts will be eligible to be discharged, and what the consequences of bankruptcy may be in your specific situation. Carefully weigh the pros and cons  - while filing for bankruptcy will cause immediate harm to your credit score, it may be the best decision for an individual's credit in the long term.  More factors to consider when making this important decision is available here.​​

What Happens When a Bankruptcy Petition is Filed?

Once a petition for bankruptcy has been filed, relief for the debtor ​is almost immediate.  All creditors must stop trying to seize the debtor's property, lawsuits freeze, and all of the debtor's property and assets becomes part of the bankruptcy estate.  Such property cannot be sold or transferred.  Creditors can no longer seize or control anything that the debtor owns.  Utilities must be restored, and a debtor's driver's license can be reinstated, if it had been suspended for not paying a debt​. 

How Can I File for Bankruptcy?

  • Before you file for bankruptcy, you must complete credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency - Locations found here 

  • Next, you must compile all your debts, assets, income, and expenses in an itemized list. This should include copies of all of your recent bills, your credit report with a list of creditors, your most recent tax return, pay stubs for at least the last 60 days, and recent ban​​k statements. 

  • Finally, you must file the necessary legal documents with the court and pay the filing fee, currently $335 for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy & $310 for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, which can be paid in installments or waived if you qualify

  • A Bankruptcy Help Desk is available at the Daley Center (Room 1401), and can provide free, expert assistance with filing bankruptcy in Cook County. Check out this list of additional free resources for filing help - Free Resources for Debt Collection.doc