INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Hoosiers filed more than 15,400 complaints with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office last year and auto-related gripes topped the list once again.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller said complaints against retail stores and home contractors were among the fastest-growing categories and landed in the number two and three spots respectively. The newly released information comes on the heels of National Consumer Protection Week which kicked off Sunday.
“The more you are informed, the better your chances to avoid becoming a victim of a fraud, scam or bad business transaction,” Zoeller said. “That’s why National Consumer Protection Week and the state’s list of top complaints are so important. Our hope is to educate consumers so that they know what to watch out for and how to protect themselves. Complaints also provide my office with insight as to what types of issues Hoosiers are experiencing and where the state can target its resources to help.”
As part of NCPW, Zoeller will host a roundtable discussion on Thursday with consumer protection groups and law enforcement agencies. Participants will discuss ways to crack down on scams and deceptive practices seen across Indiana. Invited guests include representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, Indiana TRIAD, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, among others.
The top complaint categories for 2013:
1. Used auto sales and service (1,002 complaints)
Complaints ranged from deceptive advertising and non-title delivery to faulty repairs and excessive document fee charges.
2. Retail sales (999 complaints)
Several retail business closures may account for why this category jumped up from the No. 8 spot in 2012. Businesses that abruptly close their doors often leave customers without products, services or refunds. If you feel like you have been ripped off, file a complaint by visiting IndianaConsumer.com.
3. Home repair and construction (923 complaints)
Formerly at No. 5, this category moved up the list as consumers cited a number of contractor issues including poor workmanship, failure to complete or even start a project, and misrepresenting the need for repairs.
4. Debt collection (787 complaints)
Illegal or unfair debt collection practices are a source of frustration for consumers – especially when the debt isn’t legitimate. Complaints allege harassing calls from phony creditors who threaten arrest and jail time.
5. Fraud and scams (616 complaints)
It’s clear scammers are still targeting Hoosiers as the grandparent scam, phony computer tech support calls, secret shopper and foreign lottery scams are commonly reported. Don’t send money to someone you don’t know – especially since money wires, Money Grams and Green Dot Cards are rarely recoverable. Never send money to get money. A legitimate contest or sweepstakes will not require you send money to claim a prize. Be skeptical of your caller ID because scammers can manipulate the name and number that appear on your phone to appear legitimate.
6. Internet sales and service (571 complaints)
Consumers reported issues with receiving products, deceptive advertising and refunds. To protect yourself from ID theft, never respond to requests for personal or financial information and don’t click on any links when you receive an unsolicited e-mail.
7. Consumer lending (449 complaints)
Advertisements for payday loans, cash advance loans and check advance loans are everywhere, but these opportunities for fast cash may take you deeper in debt. While these lenders may hand over the money now, extremely high interest rates associated with short-term loans can build quickly leaving already struggling consumers with unaffordable, high monthly payments.
8. Identity theft (445 complaints)
The majority of identity theft complaints involve victims whose financial information was stolen and abused. The source of the theft can range from a lost wallet to making online purchases via an unsecure Internet connection.
9. Health services (392 complaints)
Take the time to read the contract and understand the terms before joining a health or fitness club. You have three days to cancel after signing the contract. You also have rights to cancel if the club moves more than five miles from the original location, the club closes and your contract is not transferred to a similar facility within five miles, or you become disabled for the life of the contract.
10. Telephone and TV service providers (371 complaints)
Compare several different providers to determine the plan that best fits your needs and budget. In addition to your plan’s monthly charge, make sure you research the quality of service and the coverage area, the monthly usage limits, and whether any additional fees will be added to your monthly bill.
Consumers can access for consumer tips and complaint forms by visiting IndianaConsumer.com. The Attorney General’s staff travel to communities across the state to educate consumers about the latest scams and how to safeguard your personal information – especially those most vulnerable to falling victim to scams.
To schedule a free event in your area, email [email protected] or call 317-234-6668.