Financial and Privacy Resources
Better Business Bureau
If you need assistance resolving a dispute with a business, or checking on a company's consumer complaint track record, the Better Business Bureau can be a great resource. They also offer tips on a variety of consumer topics.
California Department of Corporations
The California Department of Corporations is California's investment and financing authority. Consumers can check out money managers, financial planners or other investment advisors on the Department's Investment Advisor Public Disclosure Web site. The Department's Seniors Against Investment Fraud (SAIF) Program is a statewide outreach campaign to alert and educate all Californians over the age of 50 about investment and telemarketing fraud crimes and how to avoid being victimized.
California Department of Financial Institutions
The California Department of Financial Institutions is responsible for administering state laws regulating state-licensed financial institutions: banks, credit unions, industrial banks, savings associations, trust companies, offices of foreign banks, issuers of travelers checks and payment instruments (money orders), and transmitters of money abroad. The Department's Web site provides a link to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) Web site, which offers resources to educate and protect consumers, revitalize communities, and promote compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending laws.
California Department of Insurance
The California Department of Insurance (DOI) protects consumers, both through its investigative focus on fraud, and through programs that inform and protect seniors from insurance scams. DOI has launched major lawsuits, investigations and instituted new regulations attacking corrupt sales practices in the insurance industry. The department's Fraud Division is charged with enforcing the provisions of Chapter 12 of the California Insurance Code, commonly referred to as the "Insurance Frauds Prevention Act." Cases investigated by the Fraud Division most often involve criminal acts related to automobile property and personal injury, workers' compensation, health insurance and residential and commercial property claims.
California Office of Privacy Protection
The California Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Privacy Protection is the home for the first state agency dedicated to promoting and protecting the privacy rights of consumers. The Office of Privacy Protection assists individuals with identity theft and other privacy-related concerns; provides consumer education and information on privacy issues; coordinates with local, state and federal law enforcement on identity theft investigations; and recommends policies and practices that protect individual privacy rights.
California Department of Real Estate
The California Department of Real Estate protects the public in real estate transactions and provides related services to the real estate industry. It provides consumers with information on predatory lending practices. The term "predatory lending" encompasses a variety of home mortgage lending practices. Predatory lenders often try to pressure consumers into signing loan agreements that they cannot afford or that simply are not in the consumers' best interest. Homeowners in certain communities, particularly the elderly and minorities, are especially likely to be targets of predatory lending, but almost anyone can fall prey to abusive lending practices. You can protect yourself by knowing what you can afford; choosing a reputable, licensed broker/lender; understanding the loan application and contract; and being aware of commonly used predatory lending tactics.
Cemetery and Funeral Bureau
The death of a loved one is undoubtedly the most traumatic experience any of us will ever encounter. The California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery and Funeral Bureau has information that can help seniors ask the right questions, compare prices and services, and make informed decisions.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Whether seniors are nearing -- or already enjoying -- retirement, it pays to stay on top of finances. Nearly one-third of all U.S. investors are between 50 and 64 years of age, and approximately 5 million senior citizens succumb to financial abuse each year. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Assistance has assembled key resources and links for investors in the "For Seniors" section of the SEC Web site.
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces a variety of federal antitrust and consumer protection laws to ensure that the nation's markets function competitively. The commission also works to enhance the smooth operation of the marketplace by eliminating acts or practices that are unfair or deceptive. In general, the FTC's efforts are directed toward stopping actions that threaten consumers' opportunities to exercise informed choice. You can reach the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4375) or visit their Web site for publications and advice on a variety of consumer topics. Available topics include: avoiding scams and rip-offs; automobiles; credit; diet; health and fitness; e-commerce and the Internet; energy and the environment; franchise and business opportunities; identity theft; investments; privacy; products and services; telemarketing; telephone services; and travel.
Senior Legal Hotline
The Senior Legal Hotline provides free, confidential legal advice by phone on consumer issues and other subjects for California residents over 60. Call Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and until 7 p.m. on Thursdays: (916) 551-2140 or (800) 222-1753. Or send an e-mail from the Web site to schedule a phone appointment. The hotline also operates a phone mediation program useful in resolving small disputes before they escalate.