Whether dealing with bogus products, phishing scams, price gouging or travel arrangements, it is a unique time to be a consumer. What makes these issues even more complicated is that the scenarios and responses change daily. As consumers, what do you need to know? Click the link above for important consumer information (updated 3-24-20).



Office of Consumer Protection

The Office of Consumer Protection is a division of the Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services. Whether we are mediating disputes, taking enforcement action or providing tips on how to avoid scams or make smart purchasing decisions, we are helping to protect Howard County's consumers.


Consumer tips from the Office of Consumer Protection to avoid becoming a victim of a scam:


Tip #1: Safeguard Your Social Security Card
Image of a social security card

Don't fall victim to scams which target your Social Security benefits! Safeguarding your Social Security number is the best way to avoid identity thief. Be aware that scammers try all sorts of ways to trick you into giving it away. For details about how to recognize these scams, read our fact sheet on this topic. If you are contacted and suspect it's a scam, please report it to the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271, or 1-866-501-2101(TTY), call our office at 410-313-6420 (voice/relay). 

Tip #2: Preparing for the end - How to plan for your funeral needs.

It is often difficult for grieving family members to make smart decisions when arranging a loved one's funeral; unfortunately, unscrupulous merchants often take advantage of buyers’ emotions, pitching goods or services that are unneeded or overpriced. Today's average funeral costs between $7000 and $10,000; by planning ahead, you can reduce both the cost and stress to your family. Read OCP's fact sheet to learn more or visit for additional tips and information.


Fraud sign on a stormy day graphic
Tip #3: Beware Of Home Improvement and Storm Clean-Up Scams

A rash of severe weather can bring with it more than downed tree limbs, strewn garbage cans and clogged rain gutters. These storms also bring with them a rash of folks who seem to appear from nowhere, offering to clean up your storm damage, repair or waterproof your roof, or trim your trees. For more information, read our fact sheet.


Tip #4: Fake News Sites Promote Fake Health Products

Scammers will do just about anything to rip you off -- create fake websites, use fake endorsements from public figures, lie about the effectiveness of their products, and much more. Recently, shady companies selling “brain booster” pills and assorted remedies to fight dementia and other health conditions started using these tactics to promote their products. Read our fact sheet to learn more so you don't fall victim to these false claims.


Tip #5: Preventing Identity Theft After the Death of a Loved One
Identity thieves can strike without notice - even after death. An identity thief's use of a deceased person's Social Security number may create financial and other problems for family members, and also victimizes merchants, banks, and other businesses. Read our fact sheet about how you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. 


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Howard County Consumer Protection

9830 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia, MD 21046

410-313-6420 (voice/relay)

410-313-6453 (fax)







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