According to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, the top complaints received from Indiana residents in 2012 were in regards to used car sales and services as well as Internet scams.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller recently released the annual Top 10 consumer complaint categories and consumer tips on how Hoosiers can protect themselves from being ripped off.
“Consumer complaints help our office identify, investigate and sometimes prosecute businesses that rip off or scam Indiana residents,” Zoeller said. “The annual Top 10 consumer complaint list aims to help educate consumers and guide our consumer protection efforts to cut down on scams and industry problems.”
Zoeller’s office hosted a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, March 6, with consumer protection groups and law enforcement agencies to discuss how to help consumers avoid falling pray to scams and deceptive business practices. Invited guests included representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, Indiana TRIAD, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, among others.
The top two consumer complaints filed with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in 2012 and tips on how to avoid being victimized:
1) Used Auto Sales and Services
According to Zellers, the number one reported consumer complaint stemmed from dissatisfied customers of used auto sales and services. The Attorney General states that before you purchase a car, make sure to research you local dealerships and check with the Indiana Attorney General’s office or Better Business Bureau for complaints to ensure you are entering into a contract with a business you can trust.
In addition, Zellers advises vehicle owners to research repair shops prior to making a visit. Request an estimate for parts and labor before any work is done and upon picking your vehicle up, ask have all work done shown and explained to you before driving off the lot.
StaceyPageOnline.com caught up with a few local experts on what members of the community can do to ensure they are receiving a fair deal when purchasing a used vehicle. According to Lou Moore, service manager at R&B Car Company, Warsaw, customers should be patient when making their purchases. Though Moore knows many customers experience “love at first sight” when browsing a car lot, he advises to slow down when making any choices.
“Be patient. Don’t go with the first car you see. Check for reliability and do some price shopping. Many people are so eager to buy they don’t check everything out. Don’t be in a rush to the point where you don’t check things out. Ask as many questions as you can think of, check for engine sounds and performance and, if possible, have your mechanic check it out.”
Mike Deskin of Warsaw Autoplex also offered advice stating anyone looking to purchase a used vehicle should check the car’s history thoroughly before committing to a purchase.
“Pull up the CARFAX® for a vehicle and make sure everything runs properly,” Deskin advised. “Have your own mechanic check out the car. It’s also good to check for bald tires or discolored paint that could indicate prior damage. Be aware of where your car comes from. It is often times much better to buy a car that is a local sale than something bought at auction.”
For more information from the Attorney General on how to ensure you are receiving a fair deal on the purchase of a used vehicle check the Attorney General’s website.
2) Internet Scams and Sales
In the past year, StaceyPageOnline.com has featured seven different stories warning readers of scams that target those in Kosciusko County and beyond. These scams have ranged in who their targets are and what processes they have utilized, but all have had the same goal: to steal Internet users identity and assets.
StaceyPageOnline.com spoke with Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department in November about the surge of internet scams affecting local citizens who provided a few basic tips that could help safeguard your online assets and information (See related story).
“Our warning would be to remind citizens to only open emails that they believe are reliable or familiar with, as well as safe websites,” said KCSD Sgt. Chad Hill. “Detectives highly suggest using an antivirus software/ protection in today’s world of hackers.”
The FBI’s Internet crime division, known as IC3, also advises users to practice caution when encountering unknown websites, emails and virus notifications.
According to IC3, Internet crime schemes steal millions of dollars each year from victims. The division advises Internet users to know who they are doing business with and to do research before offering any information. In addition, IC3 suggests attempting to obtain the name, addresses and telephone number of the individual or company.
When you are considering doing business or working with any online company, contact the Better Business Bureau first to determine the legitimacy of the company in question. Be certain you understand all terms and conditions of any agreement and ask for names of other customers of the individual or company and contact them.
IC3 also urges Internet users to be extremely cautious when dealing with individuals outside of the U.S. Money lost to addresses outside of the country is exceedingly difficult to trace and regain. In addition, IC3 also states to be wary of businesses or individuals who operate from post office boxes or mail drops. Most importantly, remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Though there are several precautions individuals may take to procure their online safety, knowledge truly is the best weapon. Staying informed on what scams are out there and how to avoid falling prey to them is the most useful tool in protecting yourself from become an online scammer’s target.
For a listing of current scams and for more information how to protect your online safety, visit IC3’s website.