auto problems -
cell phone telemarketing calls -
collection agencies -
counterfeit sweepstakes checks -
debt collection (zombie debts) -
delivery repair -
do not call violations -
financial opt out -
flood damaged cars -
free credit reports -
gift card expirations -
identity theft -
junk faxes -
junk mail -
lawyers involvement -
loan modification -
lottery scams -
medical insurance issues -
mystery shoppers -
nigerian scam -
small claims court -
unclaimed property -
unordered merchandise -
work at home
Q. Can you give me advice on my auto related problem?
A. Unfortunately, we are unable to help with certain auto related issues. However, numerous resources
exist for consumers experiencing problems with the auto industry. For help with your specific problem, please
contact one of the following:
Repair Problems Bureau of Automotive Repair
Used Car SalesDepartment of Motor Vehicles
(or your local DMV investigations office listed in your phone book)
New Car SalesNew Motor Vehicle Board, Consumer Mediation Services Program
Lemon LawDepartment of Consumer Affairs
Recalls National Highway Traffic Safety
InsuranceCalifornia Department of
All Other ProblemsDepartment of Consumer
Better Business Bureau
- Auto line
Q. Can Seven On Your Side assist me if I am business owner with a complaint against a
company I do business with?
Unfortunately, we are unable to help you with your problem. 7 On Your Side is strictly a service
intended to help consumers resolve complaints against businesses, rather than business-to-business. However, we
do suggest that you contact the Better Business Bureau
area, as they will probably be a good resource for you.
You can also contact the National Small Business
, which has good resources for businesses, and its affiliate
Q. If I have a question about a business where should I go to see if they are
To learn more about a local business go to or contact the Better Business Bureau
in your city or county. The phone number can be found in your phone book.
To research the licensing and legal standing of a California business, or for general questions, contact the
California Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210.
Q. If I have I a question about a product where should I go for more
To learn more about requirements for product advertisements, contact the Federal Trade Commission at
To access information about recalled products, contact the
Consumer Product Safety Commission
. The CPSC can be reached at (800) 638-2772.
Q. I get telemarketing calls on my cell phone, what can I do to stop the calls?
Cell phone providers are not allowed to sell your phone number. However, it is true that you can (and
should) add your cell phone number with the national Do Not Call Registry. It's easy and free, and will help
ensure that telemarketers don't even try calling your cell. You can get more information about this topic here
for more information on
registering your phone numbers.
Q. Where do I go to check on a charity before I make a donation?
You can check on a charity's identification through the California Attorney General's website
: or through the Better
: These sites will also allow you to view the charity's 1099 tax form, which shows you how
much the organization raises, how much they use for the actual charity, and how much their management team
makes. This should help you make an informed decision about whether you want to make a donation.
Q. I keep getting calls from a collection agency and I do/do not have a debt what should I
The recorded message encouraging you to call back, without saying what it is in regards to, is a
typical tactic used by collection agencies. They will often track down a phone number of the person they think
owes money to some company or other and they often get the wrong party. If you do have any outstanding debt,
our advice is to pay it off as quickly as you can and get proof of the payments in writing. If you don't have
any outstanding debt, go ahead and call the company back and ask what the call is about. If it is a collection
agency, ask for proof of the debt in writing. Under federal law, they are required to provide you proof of debt
if requested. If you feel you are being harassed by a collection agency, report them immediately to the Federal
Trade Commission. Harassment to collect a debt is illegal under the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act. You can find more information about that here
You can file a complaint with the FTC here
Q. I am looking for a licensed contractor, where is the best resource to find one in my
Before you hire ANY contractor, please be sure to check licensing with the Contractors State License Board
You should also read their brochure
on hiring contractors.
If you are looking for a contractor, there are several other services that may be helpful to you.
One is Bay Area Consumers' Checkbook -- a service that conducts consumer satisfaction surveys and periodic price
surveys with various companies. Checkbook
provides recommendations for services ranging from contractors, auto body shops, tailors,
and a host of other services.
There's also a service called Angie's List
, which basically ranks service providers based on consumer opinions:
This is also a subscription-only service although I believe they are offering 1 year free trial memberships in
the Bay Area.
You can also check for recommendations from ValueStar
or Diamond Certified
Q. I have a contract I want to get out of, where can I go to get help?
A signed contract is usually binding. Once a contract has been signed, or a purchase completed, there
is little that can be done. For general questions, you can also contact the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC
can be reached at 1-877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). You might also try contacting the California Department of
Consumer Affairs at 1-800-952-5210.
Q. I received a check in the mail and it looks real, how do I know if it's fake or
| COUNTERFEIT CASHIER'S OR SWEEPSTAKES
CHECKS back to top|
This sounds like yet another twist on the old counterfeit cashier's check scam. What often happens
in these cases is that you cash the check, your bank credits your account with the funds, but then weeks later,
the issuing bank kicks the check back to your bank as bogus, and your bank takes the money back out of your
account. By that time, you've probably sent the money on to the "artist" and are now out the full amount of the
bogus check. We strongly advise you not to communicate with this person! The best thing to do with that check
is tear it up and throw it out!
Q. Can a business print my full credit card number on my receipt?
California law prohibits businesses from printing out the full number on receipts, unless they are
using an imprint of the card. With older model credit card processing machines, the card is placed in the device
and imprinted with carbon paper. That's the only exception to the law. If the business is printing out credit
card receipts (mostly using that thin, yellow paper as the "customer copy") then they can't print out the full
number. The California Civil Code is below so you can print out a copy and take it into the business with you.
If they don't comply, you can report them to the state Office of Privacy Protection
1747.09. (a) Except as provided in this section, no person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, or
limited liability company that accepts credit or debit cards for the transaction of business shall print more
than the last five digits of the credit or debit card account number or the expiration date upon any receipt
provided to the cardholder.
(b) This section shall apply only to receipts that are electronically printed and shall not apply to
transactions in which the sole means of recording the person's credit or debit card number is by handwriting or
by an imprint or copy of the credit or debit card
Q. Can you recommend a credit counseling service to consolidate my debts?
There are many non-profit credit counseling services available throughout the Bay Area. While we are
prohibited from making recommendations for specific products or services, we have had good experiences with
Consumer Credit Counseling Service, which is run through the National Foundation for Consumer Credit. You can
get more information about them here
Please also check the Federal Trade Commission website
for tips on how to choose a credit counseling service.
Q. Where can I go to fix problems or errors on my credit report?
The Federal Trade Commission website has a very helpful pamphlet
on how to properly
go about dispute errors on your credit report. Please note that you can always do this yourself and do not have
to pay a service to "fix" your credit history.
Q. What is the best way to monitor my credit?
Although there are many legitimate credit monitoring services, most consumer advocacy groups say that
you shouldn't have to pay for something you can easily do yourself. That said, if you have reason to believe
that your credit may be particularly vulnerable (if you're a recent ID theft victim, for example), you need to
weigh whether or not the fee will be worth your peace of mind.
Unfortunately, 7 On Your Side is prohibited from making specific recommendations for services, but there are
many consumer groups that have articles on this subject. Here are a few websites which should provide helpful
information for you if you are deciding whether or not to pay for credit monitoring:
Q. A debt collection company is trying to collect a debt that is years old, what can I
The statute of limitations varies by state -- so if your debt was incurred in California, state law
would set the statute - 4 years, in most cases. The state Department of Consumer Affairs website has a good legal guide
You can also read more about collection agencies and your rights when dealing with them under the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act. The FTC website
has some good information.
There is also a lot of information on this issue on the internet if you search for "zombie debts
" or "re-aging debt."
Q. I waited over four hours for a delivery or repair service, do I have any
Under California Civil Code 1722, companies that have 25 or more employees must provide you with a
4-hour window in which they will make the delivery or provide the service (such as repairs). If they fail to do
so, or they fail to make that 4-hour window, the consumer can sue in small claims court for up to $600. The
only exception is if the failure to meet the window is due to reasonable "unforeseen circumstances." The
company must also notify the consumer within a reasonable amount of time if it knows in advance that it will not
make the 4-hour window. At that time, the company must provide a 2-hour window for a future date. The full
text of the California law is below for you to read, and possibly to provide to the company in question.
Q. I am on the Do Not Call List and I am still getting calls, what can I do?
We're sorry to hear about your experiences with the telemarketing company which is violating Do Not
Call laws. I would suggest noting the date, time and company who calls. Get a specific employee name if
possible. Inform them calmly that they are in violation of federal law and that you will exercise your legal
right to sue them for $500 per call if they continue to contact you. Also, inform them that you are filing a
complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and make sure to follow-up on that. You can file a complaint online
We also suggest that you contact the company in question to let them know you are being wrongfully harassed by
someone claiming to be with their company. Give them information you have on the caller (the number off your
caller ID, dates & times of calls, etc.). Inform them you have the caller on tape (which is legal as long as
you disclose up front that you recorded them), and that you will pursue legal action if necessary to make the
One final idea is a little extreme -- if it is really disturbing, contact your phone company and inquire about
either blocking the number or getting a printout of all your incoming calls. That way, you have something in
writing to prove the calls came from that number, at numerous times.
Q. I am constantly getting credit card offers in the mail, what can I do to relieve some of
1-888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688) is the legitimate toll-free number that connects you with a service
run jointly by the three national credit bureaus. They are the ones who have a legal right to sell your name for
credit card, insurance and other financial solicitations. However, you can call this number and "opt out." The
credit bureaus were ordered by Congress to create this shared one-call opt-out system in 1996.
Q. Where do I check to see if a car I want to buy was ever in a flood?
It's best to have a mechanic do a thorough check of the car before you make any purchase. They can
look specifically for possible signs of flood damage, such as: corrosion, rust or stains in areas where water
normally wouldn't or shouldn't reach. You should also check the carpet and upholstery in the interior and trunk
for a musty or moldy smell.
The databases you can use to check the car's VIN:
National Insurance Crime
Carfax Free Flood Damage
Experian Automotive Free
Flood Damage Check
Q. I want to get my free credit report, how do I go about this?
You can order your free credit reports from the 3 major credit bureaus by going to this website:
www.annualcreditreport.com. If you try to order it from any other source (such as directly from a credit
bureau) they will all try to make you pay for it. They are only processing free reports through the centralized
website listed above.
Please be advised: if you order your report online, you will only see your reports right then and there, on the
screen. You will only get a hard copy in the mail unless you order the reports via snail mail (by filling out
the request form on the website) or if you order by phone at 1-877-322-8228 If you order by mail, it will take
at least 15 days from the date they received your order for them to send the report to you.
Q. Can a gift card or gift certificate expire?
Unfortunately, there are certain circumstances in which a gift certificate or gift card *can* expire,
such as if they were received through a promotion or discount. If your gift card was obtained through a rewards
program (such as a frequent flier program), it actually can expire. Also, if the gift card was bought in bulk
by an employer or other business, and the amount paid for the gift card was less than the actual value of the
gift card, then the card can expire. Lastly, if the gift card was purchased in a state outside California, in a
state that does not have an expiration date ban as we do, the card can expire. Basically, the laws of the state
where it was sold will apply.
That being said, there's no reason that you can't argue for a business to honor the cards or certificates. The
best way to do that is to present them a copy of California's gift card law. I'll link the test of the law
below. It's rather long, but it's pretty straight-forward. Take a copy of it with you when you try to redeem
your gift certificate. You can also read more information about this law on the state Department of Consumer
Q. I am a victim of identity theft, what should I do?
One of the best online resources for information about what to do if you may be a victim of identity
theft is the Privacy Rights
You can also get good information from the state Office of Privacy Protection.
Q. I get junk faxes on my home fax machine, how can I stop this?
Unfortunately, despite the illegality of junk faxes, the government has done little to provide real
consumer protections. In fact, Congress recently passed a law that makes it easier for junkfaxers to do
business. There is a website
, run by the
CEO of a prominent Bay Area company, which offer good tips on how to try to combat junk faxes.
One thing we can all do is continue to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission. We can only
hope that if the FCC hears from enough consumers, they will finally take some sort of action. To file a
complaint, call 1-888-225-5322 or go to the FCC's website
You can send a letter of complaint to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554
Q. How can I stop the junk mail I receive to my home?
If you want off as many national mailing lists as possible, your first step is to contact the Direct Marketing
Association's (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS). You must re-register after five years.
Register for the Mail Preference Service by mail ($1). Send a post card or a letter with a check of money order
for $1 to:
Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
You can get a sample mail-in form
the non-profit group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:
When you register, your name and address are placed in a "do not mail" file which is updated monthly and
distributed to DMA members quarterly. DMA members are required to update their lists at least quarterly, and
some do it monthly. Businesses who are not members of the DMA also take advantage of this "do not mail" list, so
registering with the DMA will reduce much of your junk mail.
You may also sign up online at the DMA's website
a $1 fee charged to your credit card at: Fill out the form (at the bottom of the page) and click on the
Register Online button. You'll be taken to a secure web page where you can enter your credit card information.
DMA says this option is quicker.
If you are receiving a lot of financial solicitations (which is typical especially after you buy or refinance a
home), you should opt-out with the three national credit bureaus, who (unfortunately) have a legal right to sell
your name for credit card, insurance and other financial solicitations. However, you can call 1-888-5OPT-OUT
(888-567-8688) and "opt out." The credit bureaus were ordered by Congress to create this shared one-call opt-out
system in 1996. Please be advised that this (the 888-OPTOUT hotline) is a rare situation in which you will need
to provide your social security number. The credit bureaus are among the few agencies still allowed to identify
consumers with a social security number
Q. I am a landlord/tenant and having an issue, where can I go for advice?
Unfortunately, we often cannot get involved with landlord/tenant issues but can refer you. The state
Department of Consumer Affairs also publishes a helpful handbook
which is updated
Q. Can Seven On Your Side assist me if I currently have a lawyer/attorney working on my
Unfortunately, 7 On Your Side is prohibited from getting involved with any case in which the consumer
has retained an attorney. If you are receiving legal advice from a paid professional, your consumer rights
should be adequately protected.
Q. Where do I find information about hiring an attorney?
If your problem is of a legal nature, you may want to consider contacting an attorney. For assistance
locating an attorney, you can contact the California BAR association
. Each county BAR association also has a lawyer referral
service. These can be found in your phone book. Attorneys are usually available for an initial low-cost or
Q. Where can I go to get loan modification advice?
The federal government has certified hundreds
of non-profit agencies
to help people just like yourself.
It will take you to a list of Non-profits certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The list is broken down by city in alphabetical order.
These agencies can provide you counseling tailored to your needs. They can also assist you in getting a loan
modification. Loan modifications are difficult to get, but these certified housing counselors offer your best
chance of getting one.
We strongly recommend against paying a lawyer or other for profit agency for the same service you can get for
free. If anyone asks you for money upfront, walk away.
In the meantime, you might want to look at this FAQ
from HUD. It provides answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about this
Q. Where can I get help if I am having problems with my lender and modifying my
If you are having problems getting your lender to modify your home mortgage or if you have paid a
third-party company to help you but they have not performed as promise, the following free help is available:
Go to www.makinghomeaffordable.gov
call (888) 995-4673 for getting modification help from the Federal government Department of Health and Urban
Development. They will contact your lender to try to negotiate on your behalf.
There is a website
that can walk you through
the step to try to avoid a foreclosure.
If you paid a company to help you negotiate with your mortgage lender but they have not performed as promised,
fill out the online complaint form at www.calbar.ca.gov or call their California Bar Association compliance
department at 800 843 9053. Also the attorney general's office is taking complaints at www.ag.ca.gov/consumers
Finally, the Federal Trade Commission
would be interested
in hearing your consumer complaint.
Q. I received an email and/or letter in the mail saying I won a lottery; is this a
International lotteries are a very common type of scam. First, consider whether or not you actually
purchased a lottery ticket. If not, it wouldn't be feasible for you to win. Second, it is illegal in the U.S.
to purchase lottery tickets from other countries by phone or mail. Yet scammers continue to attempt to trick
innocent consumers into believing they have won. In any case, the notification you received is, unfortunately,
probably one of those scams. Please read the information
Federal Trade Commission's website.
Q. I have a problem with my medical insurance, can you assist me?
Unfortunately, we are unable to assist in cases that involve health insurance. However, there is a
wonderful resource available to consumers for help with medical claims issues. It is called the California Consumer Health Care Council
This group can typically assist in cases related to denied claims, early hospital discharges, coverage
limitations or changes, etc. You can reach them at:
California Consumer Health Care Council
1275 Fourth Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404-4057
Q. I received an offer online and/or in the mail to be a Mystery Shopper, is this
Unfortunately, we are prohibited from answering specific inquiries or providing recommendations about
products or services. However, here is information on mystery shopping from the Federal Trade Commission
Q. What is the Nigerian scam?
The so-called "Nigerian" scam that has been around for about a decade. Here is some helpful
information about them from the Federal Trade Commission
Q. I received an email asking me to enter my account number and personal information with a
company I already do business with, is this is scam?
This is indeed a scam, commonly known as "phishing." Please read the following information from the
Q. I want to file a small claims court case, where do I go for information?
If your dispute involves an amount under $7500, you may wish to contact Small Claims Court for
assistance. Filing fees are moderate and the process is straight forward. Each county also has a Small Claims
Advisor, whose services are free. Information on the small claims process
available on the internet at: You can also request written information by calling the Department of Consumer
Affairs at 1-800-952-5210.
Q. I received a letter in the mail from a company claiming I am owed money, is it
It's highly possible that the government is holding some money for you, but you do NOT have to pay
anything to get it! Businesses like "U.S. Claims Service" will try to get you to pay them to get the money for
you. But the truth is, you can do it yourself very easily, and for FREE! All you need to do is check with the
state controller's office to see if you do have money coming to you. You fill out a claim form, mail it in,
wait for them to verify that you are who you say you are, and they'll mail you a check. Anytime someone owes you
money, you shouldn't have to pay anything to recover it.
Here is the website you can go to in order to check if you have money from the state:
Again, all you do is fill out the government's form, and you should get the check -- for FREE -- although it may
take several weeks.
Q. I received merchandise in the mail that I never ordered, what do I do?
Federal laws prohibit mailing unordered merchandise to consumers and then demanding payment, so if
you receive something you didn't ask for, you have a right to keep it without paying for it. If it's something
expensive, that you're worried you might be held liable for, you could write to the company that sent it, let
them know you didn't order it, and that they have 30 days from the date of the letter to pick it up on their
dime. If they don't, you can keep it with a clear conscience. Make sure you send that letter return receipt
requested or certified, so you have a record. Here's more information from the Federal Trade Commission
Q. Are work-at-home programs legitimate?
Unfortunately, we have rarely - if ever - encountered a work-at-home program that really was
legitimate. We are prohibited from providing recommendations for or against specific products or services but
we can, however, tell you that state and federal regulators have issued warnings about many work-at-home
Here are some links with helpful information:
Better Business Bureau