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Message from a Student Intern

"A special thank you to the Mayor's Office of Consumer Information for giving me the tremendous opportunity and experience that has provided me with tools that will be valuable in my future career."

N. Tougas, WNEU Class of 2014

 

 

Mayor's Office of Consumer Information (MOCI)

Working in Cooperation with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office

City Hall, Room 315
Tel: (413) 787-6437 - TTY: (413) 787-6154 
(413) 787-7781 (Fax) 
E-mail: moci@springfieldcityhall.com

The Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information (“MOCI”) is funded by and works in cooperation with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General to help consumers resolve complaints who otherwise have to seek legal recourse through the court system. It serves residents of the City of Springfield and its surrounding cities and towns throughout Hampden County, as well as parts of Worcester County communities.  The MOCI cannot guarantee the outcome of a complaint but ensures that it will, with the cooperation of both parties, strive to effectively mediate the complaint in hopes of reaching an amicable resolution. 

Since 2000 MOCI has handled over 9000 complaints, recovered over $10 million dollars for consumers in the form of a refund or credit, and held hundreds of community outreach events.

The goal of the MOCI is to empower consumers with knowledge on their rights and to educate them on how to protect themselves from becoming a victim of a scam, fraud or identity theft. Therefore our motto is "Education is the Best Prevention."

Its consumer services are provided throughout Hampden County and the following communities of Worcester County: Brookfield, Charlton, Dudley, East Brookfield, Holden, North Brookfield, Paxton, Southbridge, Spencer, Sturbridge, Warren, West Brookfield and Worcester.

The MOCI provides education, referral and informal mediation services at no cost to consumers. Mediation provides consumers and businesses the opportunity to address and resolve disputes, although no legal advice or services are provided. Spanish-speaking staff is available.  Walk-ins are welcomed from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  

The MOCI staff will educate consumers on their rights in many consumer-related areas and has an array of brochures readily available. Following is a list of some of the areas the MOCI can assist with:

Lemon Laws
Home Improvement
Debt Collection
Retail Rights
Credit
Landlord/Tenant Rights
Identity Theft

...and more

To speak to a consumer advocate to learn of your consumer rights, seek advice on how to resolve your dispute or to request mediation, call (413) 787-6437. To file a formal complaint, download the complaint form.

In addition, the MOCI provides consumer-related educational outreach to Hampden County area schools and colleges, senior centers and civic agencies, free of charge. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, Identity Theft, Credit, Buying a Car and Home Improvement.  To request a speaker, download the speaker request form.

Forms for Download

Complaint form – Please contact MOCI at (413) 787-6437 before submitting this form. To file your complaint electronically directly with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, click here: AGO Complaint Form

Speaker request form – Please contact Program Director, Milagros S. Johnson about speaking to your organization. You may reach her at (413) 787-6437 or email moci@springfieldcityhall.com.
Mortgage Foreclosure Assistance - Are you struggling to pay your mortgage payment? If so, there is help for you.

Consumer Links

Facing Foreclosure? The MA Attorney General's HomeCorps may be able to help: AGO HomeCorps Initiative 

To learn of your consumer protection rights, fraud and corruption, civil rights, and promoting meaningful economic recovery, visit: Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office: Consumer Protection

For additional consumer protection information (Lemon laws and home improvement) visit: Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America.  Learn how to deter, detect and defend against it, visit: Federal Trade Commission: Identity Theft

Did you know that you are entitled to a free annual copy of your three credit reports, with no strings attached?  Be sure not to use a public computer or WiFi and allow at least 15 minutes for the process. Securely request your free credit reports from Annual Credit Report:  Annual Credit Reports

Are you feeling overwhelmed with pre-approved credit card offers in your mailbox? Did you know that they put you at risk of identity theft? To stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers, click here: Opt-Out of pre-approved credit card offers

Would you like to reduce the volume of junk mail in your mailbox? You can actually stop junk mail by clicking here: Stop Unsolicted Mail, Calls and Emails

To stop telemarketing calls to your home or mobile telephone, register at: National Do Not Call Registry

Are debt collectors harassing you at home or work?  Learn what you can do to stop the calls and to learn of your consumer rights: Fair Debt Collection

Every household should have what's often refered to as the, "Consumer Bible." Here's how you can obtain yours: 2013 Consumer Action Handbook

There is now accountability for predatory lending.  The CFPB will "Educate, Enforce and Study" consumer issues.  Visit their website at: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Before doing business with a merchant, you may want to first check its ratings and complaint history with the Better Business Bureau 








Director of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Information

 Milagros S. Johnson



We are now serving parts of the Worcester County community

We are pleased to announce that as of July 1, 2014, Attorney General Martha Coakley funded our office to serve parts of the Worcester County area. The cities and towns we will be covering during Fiscal Year 2015 are as follows:

Brookfield, Charlton, Dudley, East Brookfield, Holden, North Brookfield, Paxton, Southbridge, Spencer, Sturbridge, Warren, West Brookfield and Worcester.

As a Local Consumer Program with a history of dedication to its Hampden County consumers, we will strive to do the same for our Worcester County consumers.

Message to our Worcester County consumers: "We are a short distance away from you, and only a phone call away from serving your needs."


Tax Identity Theft

During Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Aliz Koletas of WGBY Public Television interviewed me. I had several important things to say about tax identity theft and shared tips on how to protect your personal information. Watch this clip from Public Television WGBY (Channel 2)

There are several things consumers can do to protect themselves from becoming a victim of Tax Identity Theft. It's easier to take the preventative measures than it is to clean up the mess the thieves leave behind. Take a moment to educate yourself.


Question of the Week

Q: I'm being harassed by a a debt collection agency for a debt I know I do not owe. I tell them to stop calling me but the calls continue to no end. What can I do to stop the harassment?

A: First and foremost, check your credit report to make sure that the disputed debt does not appear on your credit report. You can obtain all three of your credit reports (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for free from Annual Credit Report.

Secondly, you may want to send the debt collection agency a "cease and desist" letter, and be sure to send it certified mail, return receipt requested for your record-keeping. You will find several templates on the internet if you type "sample cease and desist letter" in your search engine.

If the problem persists, please contact our office for further assistance.


Medical Identity Theft is on the Rise

From my experience as a committed consumer advocate, I've learned that most consumers do not want to hear or read about Identity Theft until it happens to them, or when they fear their personal information may have been compromised. The same is with Medical Identity Theft, a fast growing form of identity theft. Many people that I have asked have either never heard of medical identity theft or believe it was even possible.

Our local television station, WWLP TV22 and its I-Team recently unveiled just how easy it is for one to become victim of medical identity theft. Reporter Laura Hutchinson explained how a company supplied her with a list of patients' names, addresses and prescription information, all with a simple request from her, and free of charge. Watch the video


Consumer Tip

Identity Theft: Another way to avoid it from happening to you!

Identity Theft can target anyone at anytime. It does not discriminate against any age, gender, demographic or income. When Identity Theft happens, it can take months or years and costs thousands of dollars to clear your good name. Unfortunately it's the victim that has to do all of the work and incur all the costs. Did you know that you can now freeze your credit report? The only downside is not being able to obtain credit/loan on the spot if you need it (you must first "unfreeze" your reports). You may want to consider freezing your credit report.


Hampden & Worcester County consumer outreach

We continue to receive requests for outreach events thoughout Hampden County and parts of the Worcester community. If your school (high school or college), agency or civic/social organization is interested in getting empowered on a consumer topic (such as Scams & Fraud, Identity Theft, Credit, Buying a Car) please complete the Speaker Request Form or contact us via email: moci@springfieldcityhall.com. We're ready to serve you FREE of charge.


Social Media

Connect with us on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter for informative, current and empowering tweets. We'll keep you up-to-date on consumer news, warn on scams and fraud, and much more. @SpringfieldLCP


Consumer Education

What is a Credit Score?

A credit score, often referred to as "FICO score" is a grade of how you manage your credit.  Credit scores can range from 300-850 -- the higher the better. The score is based on the following five categories:

History of Payments (35%): The story behind whether you pay your bills on time, or not.

Balance and Available Credit (30%): The ratio between your outstanding debt and available credit. Maxing out your credit cards has a negative result. For a higher score avoid using more than 30% of your credit limit.

Length of Credit History (15%): The longer you've have the account, the higher the number.

New Credit (10%): Applying for credit ("hard inquiry") lowers your credit score.



Page last updated:  Monday, July 07, 2014 03:29 pm