I was recently contacted by a reader of this Blog who asked me for information about whom to contact to report victimization by Michigan Divorce Online. Earlier this year, the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Section became aware that people were being taken advantage of by this online "company" that took money and critical information from consumers, promised to complete and to send them documents that they could file to complete a low-cost divorce, and then sent them nothing, or sent them documents that did not conform to the promises made.
One of the most serious risks consumers faced was credit fraud since Michigan Divorce Online required the consumer to provide such highly confidential information as social security numbers and other financial information.
What can consumers who have been victimized by Michigan Divorce Online or similar web-based companies do? Michigan's Attorney General Mike Cox issued a press release in March 2007 that warned consumers and also gave them relevant advice about how to proceed. I am re-publishing this press release below for the benefit of my readers. Please note that even though 7 months have elapsed since this press release, there continue to be many, many such online services looking for the unwary consumer. A simple Google search today "divorce online forms" yielded nearly 2 million results.
There's an old saying: "Let the Buyer Beware." Don't be one of those consumers who fits P.T. Barnum's old saying: "There's a sucker born every minute."
Cox Warns Consumers About Michigan Divorce Online
March 23, 2007
LANSING - Attorney General Mike Cox warned consumers today about "Michigan Divorce Online." In a very short period of time, the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has received numerous complaints from consumers. The consumers allege that they paid the company money and gave them personal information to start their Michigan divorce proceeding and the company did nothing in return. The web site for Michigan Divorce Online is www.michigandivorceonline.com.
"I am committed to providing Michigan consumers with protection and warning from dubious companies," said Cox. "Consumers should always be weary of providing personal information online."
Upon investigating the matter, Cox's office discovered that Michigan Divorce Online uses the bogus address of 626 Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48823. This address does not exist in the City of Lansing - in fact, the closest match to this address in the City of Lansing is Sparrow Hospital. Consumers calling the phone number listed on the web site, 517-579-9777, found only a recording, and their calls were never returned.
Michigan Divorce Online also leads consumers into believing they are associated with the State of Michigan by displaying Michigan's Coat of Arms. This is an unauthorized use of the Coat of Arms.
Cox stated, "Michigan Divorce Online has repeatedly misled consumers and taken their money. But the most egregious practice is requiring consumers to provide their Social Security numbers and other personal financial information. This puts consumers at great risk of becoming victims of identity theft. Consumers should use extreme caution whenever they provide their Social Security numbers or other personal financial information on-line, especially if they are dealing with a company they are not familiar with."
On March 2, 2007, Cox's Consumer Protection Division issued a Notice of Intended Action, the current investigation is ongoing.
Cox encouraged consumers who had contact with Michigan Divorce Online to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division and also to immediately apply for a free credit report. To learn more about receiving a free credit report, please see the AG's Consumer Alert about free annual credit reports at http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-34739_20942-111010--,00.html. To contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by mail: Department of Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, P. O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909. By phone call 517-373-1140 or toll-free, 877-765-8388.