The Department of Justice also unveiled a completely redesigned and updated consumer protection website featuring videos, smart consumer tips and how-tos for exercising consumer rights.
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger today announced the Oregon Department of Justice’s annual Top 10 Consumer Complaint List. The report, released as part of National Consumer Protection week, highlights the most common complaints filed by Oregon consumers in 2011.
The Top 10 Consumer Complaints for 2011 include telemarketing calls, telecommunications, international money transfer scams, financial services, homeownership issues, collection agencies, motor vehicle sales, internet sales, health products, and auto repair companies.
Every day the Department’s Consumer Protection Section helps consumers who have lost money due to fraudulent and deceptive business practices. In 2011 the Department received nearly 12,500 written complaints alleging fraud in the marketplace and helped consumers recover $2,720,931. The Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline, at 1-877-877-9392, is staffed by a team of volunteers who fielded 37,467 calls in 2011.
Increasing awareness of fraud and scams throughout Oregon continues to be a high priority for Attorney General Kroger. Today DOJ also unveiled a completely redesigned and updated consumer protection website featuring videos, smart consumer tips and how-tos for exercising consumer rights. The site is available at www.oregonattorneygeneral.gov/consumer.
The Department’s online complaint research database, Be InfORmed, allows users to conduct business searches by zip code or geographical area. Be InORmed can be found at https://justice.oregon.gov/complaints/.
Below are some highlights from the Top 10 Consumer Complaint List for 2011.
This is the first time in five years that an industry other than telecommunications ranked #1 on Oregon’s Top 10 Consumer Complaint List. With 1,341 written complaints, Oregon consumers want to silence a recent surge in unwanted telemarketing calls. The increase in complaints is largely due to a group calling itself “Card Services,” that uses a prerecorded message claiming it can help reduce credit card interest rates. Since 2009 almost any telemarketing call delivering a prerecorded message has been illegal.
In addition to violating the rule against prerecorded messages, “Card Services” neither displays the true number from which it is calling nor adheres to the national “Do Not Call List,” routinely contacting registered Oregonians. Of the 1,341 telemarketing complaints 1,285 claimed a violation of the “Do Not Call List.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received an additional 40,141 complaints from Oregonians regarding “Do Not Call List” violations, up from 23,000 complaints in 2010. The FTC has filed several lawsuits against Card Services and more are expected. For more information or to file a complaint, please call 1-888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov.Most legitimate telemarketing firms do not contact people registered with the “Do Not Call List.” Anyone can register up to 5 phone numbers for the “Do Not Call List” at www.donotcall.gov.
Historically complaints against the telecommunications and financial services industries have been first and second on the Top Ten Consumer Complaint List. The typical complaint alleges routine bill miscalculation; inaccurate representations of services and products; and, illegitimate bill collection attempts. In 2011, 1,187 complaints regarding the telecommunications were filed with the Department, with satellite TV providers receiving the majority of complaints, followed by cellular service providers and internet service providers.
International Money Transfer Scams
Last year Oregonians reported losing $1,016,583 due to international money scams. Many, if not most, Oregonians who fall victim to these scams do not contact the Oregon Department of Justice so it’s likely that the 908 complaints received only hint at the problem. International money scams often include:
Offers that are too good to be true (be aware of items advertised at massively reduced price tags on Craigslist and other internet sites)
Phone calls/emails claiming to be from friends or family stranded in an emergency circumstance needing money wired immediately
“Debt collection” calls claiming law enforcement personnel will take action immediately if money is not immediately paid for what turns out to be fake or illegitimate debt
Lottery, vacation and other prize offers that request money to be paid prior to redemption
Notification of a large inheritance from a recently deceased – and until then unknown – relative that requires the sharing of sensitive financial information (such as bank account numbers) or a payment upfront to cover the cost of taxes or other fees
Requests to make payments through money wire transfers or Green Dot credit cards
Home Ownership Issues
Complaints about homeownership issues fell slightly to 832 from 1,002 the previous year. Oregon is one of 49 states, including New York and California, that signed on to an agreement with the nation’s five largest banks that will provide roughly $25 billion in relief to resolve a multistate investigation of fraudulent and flawed foreclosure practices. This agreement penalizes banks that engaged in wrongful conduct, brings badly needed assistance to distressed homeowners and will help reverse the housing market’s downward slide.
The most up-to-date information about the settlement and homeowner eligibility is available at the official website: www.nationalforeclosuresettlement.com. However, Oregonians who believe they may be eligible for relief under this settlement are encouraged to sign up at www.oregonattorneygeneral.gov/homeowners.
Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department’s mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, promote a positive business climate and defend the rights of all Oregonians.
Tony Green, (503) 378-6002 firstname.lastname@example.org