Top 10 Consumer Rip-Offs

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Maybe you ought to re-think that sirloin being sold out of the back of a pick-up. Could be a juicy beginning to a consumer complaint.

An annual survey of state and local consumer protection agencies conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI) reveals the most common, fastest-growing and worst complaints on file. The rolling meat market was among them.

Another rip-off was an offer for a payday loan that was actually a line of credit that could only be redeemed at an online retailer. Then there was the mortgage assistance scam offered by members of a "sovereign citizenship" claiming not to be subject to the law or the courts.

And the website posting individuals' traffic convictions online and offering to remove them -- for a fee.

"Whether it's an offer on the Internet or meat being sold door-to-door out of the back of a truck, consumers need to be careful in today's marketplace," says Amber Capoun, NACPI President and a Legal Assistant in the Office of the State Banking Commission in Kansas. "This survey report illustrates the wide range of problems that state and local consumer protection agencies handle every day and why it's so important to ensure that they have the resources and training they need to protect the public."

The five fastest-growing complaints involved towing disputes, landlord/tenant problems, abusive debt collection practices, telephone service billing issues and unlicensed contractors.

"Foreclosure rescue scams, dirty debt collection tactics, sudden store closings, and landlords skimping on the heat and ignoring needed repairs are just some of the issues that confront consumers in these difficult economic times," says Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at CFA. "In addition to those problems, new types of scams and new payment methods that are being exploited by fraudsters pose challenges for consumers and consumer agencies."

The survey is based on responses from general consumer protection agencies that deal with a variety of complaints and does not include federal or state agencies that specialize in specific industry gripes such as with insurance or banking services.

Top Ten Consumer Complaints

  • 1. Car sales and service -- Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes
  • 2. Home improvement and construction -- Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job
  • 3. Credit and debt -- Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics
  • 4. Utilities -- Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas service
  • 5. Retail sales -- False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, or failure to deliver
  • 6. Services -- Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform
  • 7. Home solicitations -- Misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations
  • 8. Landlord/tenant -- Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics
  • 9. Internet sales -- Misrepresentations or other deceptive practice, failure to deliver online purchases
  • 10. Household goods -- Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick

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