There are almost as many ways to defraud a consumer as there are consumers in our economy. Illinois’ Criminal Code makes consumer fraud illegal, addressing fraud in both blanket and specific terms.
In general, consumer fraud is defined as any unfair method of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices. This can include using any deception, pretense, promise, misrepresentation or concealment of any material fact, with the intent to get a potential consumer to rely on the deception during a transaction. The law applies regardless of whether a consumer has in fact been misled, deceived or damaged by a fraudulent act.
Specific practices addressed by the law include:
- Chain referral sales techniques;
- Pyramid sales schemes;
- Failure to disclose a business’ legal name and complete street address in promotional materials;
- The deceptive sale or promotion of health-related cash discount cards;
- Failure to return down payments for purchases that were contingent upon credit references or ratings, if the purchaser did not meet the credit requirements;
- Attempting to collect debts from the spouse of the debtor, unless the spouse cosigned or the debt has been in default for at least 30 days;
- Offering to sell access to records pertaining to a consumer, if the records can be obtained at low or no cost from a governmental agency, unless accompanied by a disclaimer; and
- Refusing to allow consumers to return goods sold to them within their home within three days.
This list is by no means exhaustive. The statute lists many other instances that would be considered consumer fraud, and any deceptive business practice would likely fall under the catch-all provisions of the law.
Penalties for Consumer Fraud
The potential punishments for a conviction for consumer fraud can vary quite widely, depending on the nature of the act and the identity of the victim, but the standard penalty is that a first-time offender will be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, and an offender who commits a subsequent offense within five years will be found guilty of a Class 3 felony.
A criminal defense attorney can help you lay out a thoughtful defense to allegations of consumer fraud. Goldman & Associates will fight for you and your business, working to preserve your reputation and your liberty. We have years of experience representing clients accused of consumer fraud, as well as other white collar criminal matters. Contact our Chicago area office today for a free consultation on your Illinois consumer fraud issue.