Consumer Alert: The Top 10 List

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March 04, 2015

LITTLE ROCK – National Consumer Protection Week, March 1 – 7, is a great time each year to remind consumers that con artists are seeking new ways to target consumers and steal their money. Sometimes these scams can lead to a monetary loss of a few hundred dollars or in some cases even more.

Thousands of Arkansans contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office every year to ask for assistance with legitimate business disputes and sometimes to report scams or suspected fraud. The dedicated investigators in this division work diligently to aid each consumer who files a complaint.

In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s Consumer Alert to announce the 10 most common types of complaints fielded by the Attorney General’s Office during 2014. The Office handled and closed 8,120 consumer complaints in 2014, recovering more than $1.9 million via informal mediation efforts.

“The hardworking lawyers, investigators and staff of the Consumer Protection Division work every day to provide information and reach positive outcomes on behalf of Arkansas consumers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “By providing information on the most common types of scams, consumers can be better prepared to avoid these con artists.”

The 10 most common complaint categories from 2014 were:

1.         Automobile sales, service, financing and repair
2.         Credit services, credit repair, and other financial services
3.         Health care
4.         Wireless and landline telephone services
5.         Debt collection
6.         Home improvement, repair and construction
7.         Utilities
8.         Landlord/Tenant
9.         Mortgages, foreclosures and home financing
10.        Payday lending and other predatory lending practices

For three straight years, automobile-related transactions have been the most common type of complaint reported to the Consumer Protection Division. Purchasing a vehicle can be one of the most significant purchases a consumer makes. Sometimes consumers quickly notice when things are not exactly as they should be, but because the purchase of a vehicle is complicated, the consumer may not even be aware that a problem exists.

These automobile-related complaints often involve consumers reporting financing errors, high-pressure tactics to buy add-on services at the time of purchase, such as gap insurance, credit life or extended warranties, and sales misrepresentations. The division also receives complaints in which a dealer has failed to disclose the condition of the automobile, such as salvage history and odometer problems.

Consumers also report falling victim to illegal “yo-yo sales,” a term used to describe when a car buyer drives a vehicle off the lot with an agreement that financing will be finalized at a later date, and then returns to find the terms of the agreement have changed.

The credit and financial services category is the second most common complaint for the second year in a row. This category includes credit repair complaints, issues with credit reporting, and complaints about credit cards and banking and financial services in general. For instance, credit repair companies may promise to “erase” bad credit, but many times the consumer turns over large amounts of money only to see it disappear and little to nothing occurs to improve the score.

The third most common complaint in 2014 was health care related disputes. Consumers report problems with medical equipment sales, medical billing from doctors, hospitals, and clinics, unauthorized Medicare enrollment and prescription drug costs.

The Arkansas Attorney General’s website, www.ArkansasAG.gov, contains information about every common complaint category, as well as other general tips. Consumers can also contact the office via the Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 482-8982.