Consumer fraud is a term that encompasses many types of fraudulent or deceitful activity. Consumer fraud can include identity theft, insurance or real estate scams, and false advertising (such as the old-fashioned “bait-and-switch”). It can also include investment scams, fake charities, and defective products, among many other things. In fact, consumer fraud can occur any time you feel like you have been deceived or taken advantage of in a business transaction.
In recent years, consumer fraud has become rampant in our society. One of the major reasons for the increase in consumer fraud is the growth of technology. In the “olden days,” most business transactions were completed at arms-length. That there were more face-to-face business dealings does not mean people were not victims of fraud. It was just a lot harder to defraud when a person had to look you in the eye, come to your office, sign physical paperwork, etc. Nowadays, many people conduct business over the Internet, without ever coming into contact with the person on the other end of the transaction. Companies can easily be created on-line that either don’t exist or are not what they purport to be. The Internet has made the potential for fraudulent transactions rampant and people need to be even more vigilant when conducting business this way.
No matter what caused you to fall prey to a fraudulent transaction, the lawyers at Farris, Riley & Pitt are here to help you. We will investigate the facts of your case and determine if you are a victim of a fraud. We will then pursue every remedy available to you under the law in an effort to make you whole again. Losing money or even getting injured as a result of someone’s fraudulent or deceptive behavior is frustrating and hard to swallow. Hiring a lawyer, like the experienced lawyers at Farris, Riley & Pitt to fight for your rights in a fraud situation may help take the sting out.
What Alabama Law Says About Fraud
In its simplest form, fraud is defined as a situation where someone misrepresents a material (important) fact. If a person (consumer) relies on that misrepresentation and because of that reliance, is damaged, then that consumer is a victim of consumer fraud. Usually, the damages are in the form of lost money. Damages can involve personal injury if for example, a person was deceived into buying an unsafe car and was then hurt in an accident. Damages in a consumer fraud case may also include compensation for emotional distress brought on by the fraudulent transaction and punitive damages to punish the perpetrator and prevent him and others from committing fraud in the future.
Common examples of fraud include:
when a person buys a car after being told it is almost new but, in fact, the odometer has been rolled back to hide the actual mileage
when a person donates money to a charity that turns out to be a fake organization.
when an insurance company denies coverage for a loss even though the insurance agreement says the loss should be covered
when a company claims you have not paid your utility bills and threatens to turn you off even though you have paid.
How Are Your Rights Protected?
In general, the act of fraud is a violation of what lawyers call “tort law”. A tort is any civil wrongdoing. Tort law protects individuals from many kinds of harm, including personal injury and fraudulent misrepresentations. People can file lawsuits based on violations of tort law and recover money damages. An example of this is a lawsuit for personal injuries received in a car accident. Another example would be intentionally misrepresenting an important fact in a business transaction.
Many different laws protect your rights as a consumer. There are several federal laws, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act that are intended to protect the rights of consumers. The State of Alabama has also enacted laws aimed at consumer protection, such as a law that protects consumers against false advertising and a law that protects consumers from odometer tampering. The State of Alabama has not, however, adopted the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which is a state law that many states have to provide consumers with further protection. Consumers may also be protected by state or federal criminal laws if the fraud rises to the level of criminal activity. An example of fraud that is also a crime would be identity theft.
Statute of Limitations in Alabama
Every state, including the State of Alabama, has what’s called the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations governs the amount of time a person has with which to file a lawsuit. It can vary depending on the type of lawsuit and particular facts of the case. The time periods with which to bring certain lawsuits, including lawsuits for fraud, are relatively short. Figuring out when the Statute of Limitations begins to run in a fraud lawsuit is often confusing. Under the law, the Statute of Limitations for fraud starts running from the time of the fraud or from the time your should have reasonably discovered the fraud. It is often not a cut and dried situation and you will need expert legal advice to guide you through this initial hurdle.
It is important that you meet with an experienced lawyer, like the lawyers at Farris, Riley & Pitt to help you determine whether you are within the Statute of Limitations for your case. Make sure you consult your lawyer, as soon as possible after you discover you have been defrauded. You don’t want to file a lawsuit only to learn that you took too long and exceeded the time allowable under the Statute of Limitations. Swift action and meeting with a capable lawyer as soon as possible will help you to avoid these problems.
Contact Us Immediately if You Think You Are a Victim of Fraud
Since the firm opened its doors in 1996, the attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have a long history of helping people who have lost money or been injured through an act of trickery or deceit. We pride ourselves in helping our clients who have been defrauded—whether it is a battle against a big insurance company, a dispute with a neighbor, or a complicated case of Internet identity theft. Our intelligent and insightful lawyers will dissect the facts of your case, identify the potential defendants, and pursue restitution and/or damages, depending upon what is appropriate under the law. We will work side by side with prosecutors if your matter is also a criminal one. Fraud can have long term effects on our clients’ lives and we strive to minimize injuries from fraud and help our clients gain back what they have lost.
Let Alabama lawyers Farris, Riley and Pitt help you to pursue justice against your defrauder. For a free evaluation and to learn more about whether you have a claim in the event you are a victim of fraud, contact the attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt today. You can call us at 205-324-1212 or toll-free at 1-888-580-5176. You can reach our knowledgeable legal staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling our toll-free lawyer assistance line at 1-888-937-7534.