Report Consumer Fraud in Indian Country

INDIAN COUNTRY – When we visit businesses to buy the items we need, we expect sales people to offer truthful and accurate information about the products we want to purchase.

What we don’t expect are sales people who lie to us and force us to sign documents that we haven’t reviewed. Yet, there are many victims of consumer fraud who have had terrible experiences with salespeople who scammed those customers out of their money.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government agency which provides consumers with assistance when they have been ripped off by unscrupulous businesses and/or salespeople. A public briefing called “Spotting and Avoiding Scams in Indian Country” was recently hosted by several FTC officials.

The briefing featured a Navajo Nation citizen who shared the consumer fraud she experienced when she went to trade in her vehicle. Residents of the Navajo Nation reservation often live in remote areas accessible by unpaved roads that lack regular maintenance. Navajo tribal citizens travel long distances to border towns to purchase supplies, food, fuel and other items. They depend on their vehicles to also haul feed and water to their livestock.

Sherry is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. She was interested in trading in her vehicle for a truck so it would be easier for her to haul supplies to her remote residence.  She visited a car dealer in Winslow, Arizona after receiving a flyer in the mail. After finalizing what she thought was an upfront purchase, she turned over the key to the car she thought she was trading in and left in a different vehicle.

A few of weeks later, she got a call from the finance company about the vehicle she supposedly traded in. She later got a letter stating she was responsible for an abandoned vehicle, which was the one she supposedly traded in. She took the letter to the dealer to ask where the car was. He told her the lienholder came and took the car back.

The car she believed she traded in was eventually repossessed. She still owed $10500 on the vehicle. She was told by the car salesman who lied to her to ignore the phone calls seeking payment for the repossessed vehicle. She then sought legal help. The FTC helped the 3500 victims in this case receive $415,000 in restitution payments. You can see more information on this case at https://tinyurl.com/y9k3snk2

According to their website, the FTC’s mission is to help protect all communities, including American Indian and Alaska Natives, from unfair and deceptive business practices. This is done through law enforcement actions and by sharing resources to help people spot, avoid, and report scams and bad business practices.

The FTC wants to hear from American Indian and Alaska Native communities about their experiences. Your reports can help the FTC and their partners stop scammers. If you believe you have been the victim of a fraud, scam, or bad business practice, you can report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov

Published by Vi Waln

Journalist

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