• Myth 1: You have the right to cancel any purchase or contract within three days.
FACT: The three-day right to cancel a purchase or contract applies only to a limited number transactions. In Connecticut, the three-day right of recision applies to health club contracts, timeshare purchases, home improvement contracts and door-to-door sales. Contrary to popular belief, purchases of automobiles, other vehicles and big-ticket durable goods are not covered.
Major purchases should be made carefully, and always be sure to read the fine print before signing a contract.
• Myth 2: When returning merchandise you have the right to a store refund if you request one.
FACT: In Connecticut, each store may set its own refund policy, which must be conspicuously disclosed at the time of sale. If the policy is not properly disclosed, or if the store has no refund policy, a consumer may return purchased goods for a cash refund if you paid in cash or if by credit card then a credit to that account. This refund policy does not apply to food, perishable items, plants, custom-made or custom-ordered goods, items that have been used, items that cannot be resold under state regulations, or items marked “as is” or “final sale.” Retailers are not obligated to make refunds without proof of purchase, such as a purchase receipt or bill of sale.
• Myth 3: “Awards," "Prize" and "Lottery" notifications sent by U.S. mail must be official.
FACT: Phony award, prize and lottery promotions are among the most common types of fraud. No matter how they are packaged, these offers inevitably cost money by requesting “entry” or “judging” fees, donations, advance payment of taxes, purchases or calls to 900 numbers. Contests that ask that you send money or that guarantee that "everyone’s a winner" are illegal in Connecticut. Don’t be fooled – you cannot win a lottery you did not enter, and you never have to pay in advance for legitimate awards, prizes or lottery winnings.
• Myth 4: The “Lemon Law” applies all big-ticket items you purchase, including used cars.
FACT: Almost all states, including Connecticut, have lemon laws covering new car purchases under certain circumstances. However, there is no universal lemon law applying to all big-ticket items such as used cars, televisions, lawn mowers and kitchen appliances. Connecticut's Lemon Law applies to new motor vehicles purchased or leased in the state and covers repair attempts made within the first 24,000 miles or during the first two years of use and, in limited circumstances, apply to second owners. Generally used cars are not covered by the lemon law, so always investigate the history of a used car or product and have it checked by a mechanic or other knowledgeable person before purchasing. Connecticut has a separate used car warranty law covering some used cars purchased from dealers.
• Myth 5: The majority of money contributed to a charity must go to the charitable purpose.
FACT: While charitable organizations are not obligated to spend a minimum percentage of what they raise on their stated charitable purposes, donors should ask if a caller is a paid solicitor or a volunteer for the charity and insist on being told the percentage of the donation that actually goes to the organization’s charitable purpose. Be wary of solicitations from groups with names that sound like legitimate charities and, when in doubt, take the time to research a charity before making a charitable contribution. For more information about charitable solicitations and to view the state's charities registry, visit www.ct.gov/dcp.
• Myth 6: It is safe to use your credit card information for identification purposes.
FACT: Never use your credit card for identification purposes, especially over the phone, as scammers with access to your credit card number and expiration date may make unauthorized charges against your card. Using a credit card to product place orders, make hotel reservations or make other purchases over the phone and online from reputable, established businesses is usually safe; however, if you believe you are a victim of credit card fraud or have not received the product or service purchased, credit card purchase protection policies often limit your losses and may be able to credit the funds back to you. The same protections may not apply to debit card purchases.
• Myth 7: Purchasing magazines improves your chances of winning a publisher sweepstakes.
FACT: It is illegal in Connecticut for any type of sweepstakes promotion to require any kind of purchase or payment to enter. Entrants who do not purchase magazines must be given the same chance of winning as those who do make purchases.
• Myth 8: No one can take money from your bank accounts without your written authorization.
FACT: Merely giving someone your account number may allow them to make withdrawals from your account. Unscrupulous individuals can sometimes contact your bank with your account number (and routing number), claiming that you authorized the withdrawal, and the bank may pay the claimed amount without your express approval. Unfortunately, consumers usually do not discover the unauthorized activity until it's too late and the funds are lost. Never give out your bank account number or routing number in response to unsolicited phone calls or emails.
• Myth 9: Credit reports are private and only accessible by third parties with your authorization.
FACT: Potential employers, landlords, insurers and retailers may access credit reports as part of a background and financial checks. You may obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every twelve months by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Review your credit report for accuracy and if you notice errors, contact the credit bureau immediately.
• Myth 10: Advertisements on the radio, on television, in newspapers and magazines or on major Internet sites must be accurate, otherwise they would not be run by reputable organizations.
FACT: There is no requirement that advertisements be submitted to a government agency for review to determine truthfulness or accuracy. Also, the media is generally not legally required to review advertisements for truthfulness or accuracy. While Connecticut law prohibits businesses from knowingly making false statements about their products or services, deceptive and false advertising does occur. Independently research any claims made in advertisements before purchasing a product or service, talk to friends and family about their experiences with a product or business and always remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, provides extensive consumer information on its Web site, www.ftc.gov.
• For additional information, or if you have any questions, call the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Assistance Unit at 860-808-5420.