Attorney general lists top 10 scams
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has released a list of the top 10 most common consumer complaints and scams reported to his office in 2011.
- No-call complaints (22,225 complaints): On average, consumers file approximately 89 complaints against telemarketers each working day. Koster warns consumers to be wary of giving any financial information over the telephone and to do so only when the consumer initiates the call.
- Debt collectors (1,873 complaints): There was an increase in the number of complaints filed against debt collectors in the last year. Many consumers indicate they are being harassed for debts they may not even owe. Others claim the debt-collection agencies are abusive, threatening and include repeated calls when attempting to collect a debt.
- Telephone cramming and billing (1,281 complaints): “Cramming” is when a consumer receives a charge on his phone bill for services he did not order. Consumers should thoroughly review telephone bills each month for evidence of cramming, which can include charges as small as $1 or $2. Many complaints were also received regarding unauthorized fees from third parties.
- Credit and debit card (1,126 complaints): A fourth major category of complaints by consumers in 2011 was unauthorized charges on credit and debit cards. Scams such as these can occur by telephone, e-mail or text messaging. Federal law grants consumers the right to challenge some unauthorized charges, but the challenge must be made in writing within 60 days of the charge appearing on the consumer’s monthly statement.
- Home repair and remodeling (926 complaints): Complaints against home improvements/home repair contractors are common every year. The typical scammer will go door-to-door asking for money up front from vulnerable consumers, often offering discounts for “left-over” product. Common door-to-door schemes involve driveway asphalting, roof and chimney repairs, and remodeling work inside the home. The scam artists are often not licensed with the local municipality, are not from the area, do not provide a detailed contract, and usually demand cash payments.
- Mortgage/foreclosure/loan modifications (862 complaints): Many struggling homeowners have filed complaints concerning foreclosure on their homes and the loan modification process. Common complaints include relentless requests for paperwork already provided by the borrower. The Attorney General’s Office has also received complaints from consumers who actually get temporary loan modifications but fail to get permanent solutions.
- Cable/satellite services (762 complaints): Many consumer filed complaints that cable and satellite companies lured them into contracts over the telephone with low promotional price quotes and then charged them three times as much as their monthly bills because of additional services that were not disclosed over the phone. Consumers also frequently complained about termination fees that were not clearly disclosed when the service was purchased.
- Lotteries and sweepstakes (751 complaints): “Congratulations, you have just won $10,000!” Consumers are warned to be leery of telephone calls, e-mails or letters with statements like this.
- Automobile repair (604 complaints): While most repair shops are honest, it is very easy for an unethical mechanic to convince the average person, who does not know much about his or her car, that unnecessary repairs are needed. People often have no idea that they have been ripped off. Consumers are encouraged to get a written estimate before repairs are made, to have repairs made by a certified mechanic who honors the existing warranty, and make sure repairs are guaranteed.
- Business opportunity scams (556 complaints): Lured by deceptive promises of easy income, many would-be entrepreneurs jump into the arms of con artists who claim “we are not just selling you a business, we put you IN business.”
Koster encourages all consumers to file their complaints with his office so that he can investigate scams, mediate complaints when possible and take legal action when necessary to protect Missouri citizens. Consumers can register complaints by telephone at 800-392-8222, online at www.ago.mo.gov, or by mail at P.O. Box 899, Jefferson City, MO 65102.