As our New York City Consumer Rights Attorneys understand it, the state's attorney general has now issued a list of the top 10 consumer fraud complaints from New Yorkers last year. The announcement came at the outset of the National Consumer Protection Week.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that arming consumers with information on how to protect themselves is one of the most effective defenses to thwarting scams, adding that the ultimate crime scene of our century is unequivocally the internet. While he vowed his office would vigorously go after those who perpetuate fraud on the greater population, he underscored that giving consumers the knowledge of how to recognize a scam, and further to report it, will make a huge difference in curbing the reach of these crimes.
The complaints received by his office were broken down like this.
10. Telecommunications. In this category, which includes cellular service, pay-per-call and phone cards, the state's attorney general received about 1,020 complaints. With calling cards, start off with one card purchased for a small amount to test and make sure additional fees don't apply.
9. Mail order. These scams involved purchases that were made either from a catalog or online. In this category, the attorney general's office received about 1,065 complaints. Before you order anything through a catalog, make sure it is a reputable company with an actual service line and a real address.
8. Construction and home repair. These would generally involve home improvement projects in which the work either wasn't completed or was done very poorly. Complaints in this category numbered about 1,210. Shop around for estimates and other consumer reviews before agreeing to a contract.
7. Retail sales. These would involve any purchase of goods, which include gift cards, rent-to-own products or clothing. In this category, Schneiderman's office received about 1,220 complaints. Know the laws and company policy regarding gift cards before you buy.
6. Mortgage fraud. This has been big all across the country, and includes loan brokers and mortgage officers, as well as deceptive practices within the foreclosure process. Of those, the attorney general's office received about 1,600 complaints. Keep an eye out for companies that offer to delay your foreclosure for an upfront payment, as well as companies that claim to be working for the government.
5. Tenant and landlord issues. These would include failure to complete repairs, harassment or failing to release security deposits. The AG's office received about 2,700 of these complaints. Ask your landlord for proof that the building is up to code, and keep your own scrupulous records.
4. Consumer-related services. This would encompass anything from restaurant or catering services to tech repairs to security systems. Of these, there were about 3,700 complaints. Have a written contract in place before you allow the work to begin.
3. Vehicle issues. These would include anything relating to the purchase, lease, repair or rental of a motor vehicle. There were about 3,300 of these complaints. Make sure you research the state's vehicle leasing laws before you sign on the dotted line.
2. Credit. This involves a host of problems involving credit card billing to debt collection to debt settlement. Schneiderman's office received about 3,840 complaints regarding these issues. You should know that debt collectors are not allowed to abuse or harass you and they aren't allowed to offer you misleading information (which doesn't mean they never do).
1. Internet. The internet was No. 1 when it came to complaints filed with the AG's office - about 4,000 in all. These included a wide range of issues, from consumer fraud to spyware to privacy problems. The attorney general's office advised to always make sure websites are secure before you give any personal or financial information.
The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides consumer protection counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.
A.G. Schneiderman Releases New York's Top Ten Frauds of 2011, WKBW News, Staff Report