Scams and unwanted calls top complaint list

Apr 03, 2014

RALEIGH — In 2013, 19,865 consumers filed complaints with the Consumer Protection Division of Attorney General Roy Cooper’s Office. Cooper urged consumers to learn about common sources of complaints as a way to prevent problems in the future.

“Don’t get fooled by common scams or rip offs,” Cooper warned. “Learn about common consumer problems so you can avoid them, and let us know if you don’t get what you paid for.”

Although the total number of complaints was down from 23,205 in 2012, consumers continued to report many of the same problems.

At the top of the list for 2013, there were 5,076 complaints about Do Not Call violations. Many consumers complained about continuing to get unwanted telemarketing calls after they’d placed their number on the Do Not Call Registry. Many complaints were about calls pitching medical alert and home alarm systems. Often these were illegal robocalls, which ask consumers to press a number to speak with a representative.

North Carolina law makes it illegal for a business to call you using a recorded message, and the Consumer Protection Division been able to use consumers’ complaints to identify the culprits behind some illegal robocalls and take action to shut them down. Cooper recommends that consumers hang up on robocalls, since pressing a number to get more information or try to stop the calls is actually likely to result in more calls.

Complaints about lending were number two on the list for 2013, with 3,366 complaints filed. Common problems include high interest rates, charges for late or missed payments, adjustable rate mortgages, prepayment penalties and loan fees.

Many consumers complaining about lending problems had taken out online payday loans. Payday loans are illegal in North Carolina, and Cooper and the NC Commissioner of Banks forced the last storefront payday lenders out of the state in 2006. But lenders outside the state continue to try to reach North Carolina consumers through the Internet. Cooper began cracking down on out-of-state, online lenders with a lawsuit filed against CashCall and Western Sky last year for charging interest rates of up to 342 percent in violation of state law.

Complaints about telemarketing fraud were number three on the list, with 3,056 last year. The scammers making these calls are usually located outside the U.S. and attempt to get consumers to send money or share their personal information. Complaints included schemes involving sweepstakes and lotteries, phony government grants, advanced fee loans, sweetheart scams and grandparent scams. Cooper has also recently warned consumers about telemarketing fraudsters posing as IRS agents and tech support specialists

Complaints about telemarketing scams indicate that victims are increasingly asked to send money via reloadable debit cards such as Green Dot MoneyPaks instead of via wire service.

Complaints about health care, home repair, motor vehicles, credit and collections, television services, Internet and computers, and furniture rounded out the top ten. See the complete list of top ten consumer complaints of 2013 at www.ncdoj.gov, as well as our top ten consumer tips.

The top ten list is based on written complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Tens of thousands of North Carolina consumers also get help from consumer protection experts from the office over the phone and by email as well as at scam jams and other educational events across the state.

North Carolina consumers who want to check out a business, get tips or file a complaint can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or submit a complaint online. Once a consumer files a written complaint, our office can try to help resolve the situation. In cases where there is a pattern of illegal business practices, the Attorney General may also take action to enforce the law on behalf of all North Carolina consumers.

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