Scammy, scammier, scammiest
Many issues were highlighted at last week’s Common Ground Conference on Native American Issues, held in Albuquerque. And some of the scams are things we see in other communities, all over the country. However.
The scammy practices in Indian Country are among the most egregious we’ve seen in our collective decades of lawyering. Being a consumer in Indian Country is evidently harder (and riskier) than being a consumer elsewhere.
Imagine, for example, being effectively held hostage in a car dealership, hours from your home. The dealer brought you there, won’t let you leave until you sign a contract, and you have no other way to get home. So you sign, make your escape – and wind up with triple-digit APR on your loan. For a car that might not even run.
Imagine talking with a sales person, making a deal orally, and shaking on it. Which is how deals are made in your culture. And then signing a contract that says something entirely different – and having no recourse.
“The New Mexico Attorney General’s office is working to stop these and other deceptive practices and has brought actions against car dealers and high cost lenders, as well as issuing new regulations for debt collectors,” said Karen J. Meyers, Director of the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the New Mexico Attorney General. “The AG’s office also offers a dispute resolution service that often allows consumers to resolve complaints against businesses without the expense of litigation.”
The good news? New Mexico has strong consumer protection laws, and the Attorney General’s office enforces them vigorously. The better news: There is an active legal services presence in Native American communities, and some wonderful community groups. The best news: This Common Ground conference was the beginning of a long and productive conversation among tribal groups, legal services, other community groups, and the FTC. We look forward to finding ways to work together.