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World Consumer Rights Day

Sixty years ago, on March 15, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress saying, “Consumers, by definition, include us all.  They are the largest economic group in the economy, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision.”  Today on the same day each year, we recognize World Consumer Rights Day which reminds us of the importance of protecting our rights as consumers in a rapidly evolving environment.  The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) supports the day annually to generate conversations about consumer protections because as OCABR Undersecretary Edward A. Palleschi often states, “an informed consumer is an empowered consumer.”  By joining consumer-centered conversations, we can better protect ourselves from potentially unfair or fraudulent practices.

This year, the membership of Consumer International, which spreads across 100 countries and 200 different consumer groups, designated the theme of World Consumer Rights Day as “Fair Digital Finance.” The theme acknowledges the increasing number of digital financial services and technologies available. Digital technologies have reshaped payments, lending, insurance, and wealth management. According to Consumer International, digital banking consumers are expected to exceed 3.6 billion by 2024. These changes in digital systems have allowed consumers to reach new horizons by accessing marketplaces that never existed before. Yet with all changes, comes new risks.

The Division of Banks, an agency within OCABR, is the chartering authority and primary regulator for financial service providers in Massachusetts.  The Division of Banks supervises nearly 140 state-chartered banks and credit unions and over 14,500 non-depository licensees doing business in the Bay State. The supervision of these entities allows the regulatory agency to implement and enforce consumer protection laws while providing the information needed to make informed financial decisions.

In honor of World Consumer Rights Day, OCABR compiled cybersecurity tips to help keep your personal information safe.

  • Confirm the web address you are visiting and its security. Scammers may target your financial information through phish emails or messages containing fake links.  Ensure that the website is legitimate by reviewing the URL.  Also look for web addresses with “https:” or “shttp:” which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information.
  • Use strong passwords or passphrases. An effective password is your first defense against a fraudster or hacker. Consider using upper- and lower-case letters and special characters when allowed.  A best practice to consider for passwords is for them to be at least 8 characters long.
  • Disable wireless or Bluetooth connection options in public. Devices like your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop may have wireless internet and Bluetooth connection capability. Turn off these options and only use the features in a safe location.

In recognition of World Consumer Rights Day, Consumer International is hosting a Fair Digital Finance Forum and as always, OCABR is offering online safety events open to Massachusetts consumers. For more information on consumer protections from the Office of Consumer Affairs or our five regulatory agencies, visit www.Mass.Gov/Consumer.

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