Top Ten Consumer Complaints In Ind.
Press release from the Indiana Attorney General
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has released the top 10 consumer complaints and tips of 2011 to help inform Hoosiers as part of National Consumer Protection Week.
“As the state’s consumer protection agency, consumer complaints ranging from auto-related scams to telemarketing fraud are welcomed at the Attorney General’s Office,” Zoeller said. “These complaints give us the authority to prosecute offenders and educate the public so others don’t become victims. Indiana consumers who have been ripped off, defrauded or scammed deserve to be heard and protected and we are here to do just that.”
On Monday President Barack Obama issued a proclamation declaring the significance of this week as attorney generals’ offices, consumer advocacy groups, private organizations and others push for public awareness of scams, fraud and abuse.
In addition to the top 10 list, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office also launched a new video onwww.indianaconsumer.com titled, “Complaints Welcome,” to encourage consumers to file complaints and explain how the state can take action.
Here are the top 10 consumer complaints filed with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in 2011 and tips on how to avoid being victimized:
1. Auto-related complaints
Before buying a car take your time to read and understand the entire written agreement and warranty before signing. Also obtain the vehicle identification number and research the vehicle’s history with one of the various title history services available. Always have your own mechanic or body shop inspect a used car before you purchase.
2. Internet scams and sales
Never respond to requests for personal or financial information via e-mail and don’t click on links you receive in unsolicited e-mails. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Indiana and the across the nation. Visit our ID theft toolkit online for both tips to prevent the crime and what to do if you are victim atwww.indianaconsumer.com. If buying items online don’t spend more than you are willing to lose. Be wary of sellers’ addresses located outside of the U.S. and those who require wired payments. When paying for items online use a payment service, such as PayPal, or your credit card, which may offer additional protections.
3. Debt collection
Research the debt collection process and determine whether you are being contacted for legitimate nonpayment and by a lawful collector. Know your rights and how to recognize abusive collection practices. Keep track of phone conversations and other interactions. File a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office if you suspect the agency is not legitimate, if you are being harassed or if the collector refuses to supply verification of the debt.
4. Home repairs and construction
Be skeptical of door-to-door salesmen who offer to repair damages to your home. Do your research on the contractor and compare bids. Indiana law requires home improvement contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing. Never pay for the entire project before the work begins and do not pay more than one third of the total cost as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.
5. Financial investments
Be wary of unsolicited offers to invest your money and do your own research on the salesperson, the company’s business and its products. Be skeptical of off-shore investments, guaranteed returns and pressure to send money right now. To learn more about investment scams visit www.investor.gov.
6. Lending and mortgage related
Foreclosure-rescue scams promise to make a modification to your loan to reduce your monthly mortgage payment or take other steps to save your home – all for an upfront fee. If you are facing foreclosure, seek free assistance from a legitimate non profit like the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network atwww.877gethope.org.
7. Telemarketing calls
Register your telephone number with the Indiana Do Not Call list by calling 888-834-9969 or visitingwww.IndianaConsumer.com. Do not agree to purchase anything from a telemarketer unless he or she provides you with a contract before the sale is completed. Don’t provide bank account, credit card numbers or any other personal information over the telephone unless you have initiated the transaction yourself.
8. Health and physical fitness
When signing up for a health or fitness membership read the contract, renewal provisions and cancellation notice requirements. Under Indiana law, if the health club is sold, the purchaser assumes contracts and liabilities from the previous owner. You can legally cancel your membership if the club moves or the new owner is more than five miles from the original location.
9. Entertainment and recreation related
This category made the list after more than 160 complaints were filed by consumers who purchased tickets to Little Nashville Opry shows that were later cancelled because of the theater fire in 2009. To avoid scams when buying tickets never pay with cash or by money order and be skeptical of any offer far below market value. Research the ticket broker and if buying online make sure it is a secured site and use a credit card.
10. Credit services
Credit card interest rate reduction scams often originate with a robo-call promising to lower rates for an up-front fee. These fraudulent companies are offering services that consumers may do for themselves at no cost, by calling the credit card company and asking for a reduced rate.
To find out more about these scams or to file a consumer complaint, please visit www.indianaconsumer.com. Zoeller said Attorney General’s Office staff also travel to communities across the state to promote consumer protection issues and safeguard Hoosiers – especially those most vulnerable to scams.
In 2011, the office attended or hosted 308 community outreach events on identity theft, scams and foreclosure prevention to help educate the public – and have hosted 81 so far this year. To schedule a free event in your area please email [email protected] or call 1-317-234-6668.