National Consumer Protection Week is March 5-11, and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is offering tips to help Florida residents and visitors protect themselves from scams. National Consumer Protection Week is a nationwide effort to educate consumers about their rights and how to make well-informed decisions. Last year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services received more than 38,000 consumer complaints and recovered more than $3 million for Florida consumers.
“An educated consumer is the cornerstone of protection against scams, and I encourage Floridians to take advantage of the many resources we offer,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
The department provides many tools to consumers, including the following:
- The department is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to assist consumers with gathering information about businesses, charities or other organizations. The department can also help consumers file a complaint if they feel they have been taken advantage of. Call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).
- The department’s website also has a Live Chat function available to assist consumers with information and complaints. Click “Live Chat” from the department’s home page at FreshFromFlorida.com.
- The Little Black Book of Scams provides tips on avoiding charity scams, identity theft, tax scams, foreign lotteries and more.
- Before contributing to charities, consumers should utilize the Check-A-Charity tool. This helps consumers see how their donation will be used.
- Consumers who receive unwanted sales calls at home should sign up for the state’s Do Not Call list here. It’s free to sign-up and only takes a minute.
- Consumers can use the A-Z Resource Guide to see which office, agency or division has oversight on certain issues.
- The A-Z Resource Guide directs consumers to the most appropriate agency for assistance with a wide variety of topics.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. The call center is staffed with trained analysts who can respond to questions about programs and regulations under the department’s purview, provide information on a wide variety of topics or direct callers to the appropriate government agency. Consumers can get tips or file a complaint at FreshFromFlorida.com.
Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).