Scams, rip-offs and outright fraud plagued New Yorkers in 2012. To recognize the start of National Consumer Protection Week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a March 5 press statement listing the most frequent complaints his office received last year. Topping the list is Internet issues with more than 4,000 complaints of compromised privacy, spyware and consumer fraud.
The Attorney General urges Internet users to verify the security of a website by checking the url. The address should begin with”https” rather than the unsecured “http.” Additionally, secure websites will have a symbol, such as a lock, to show the site use encryption to scramble your personal information.
Debt collections ranked second in the list. Debt collectors were charged with illegally harassing consumers and providing false information. Credit counseling agencies in New York State must be licensed. Consumers experiencing debt problems can avoid scams by finding a reputable agency through the Attorney General’s office.
Completing the Top 10 list of complaints are:
Many of the complaints were with lease agreements. Under New York law, lessees can default once on a monthly payment and, if they make the payment within 25 days, the dealer must reinstate the lease. Consumers have the right to dispute wear and tear charges and early termination charges must be reasonable.
- Consumer-Related Services
The Attorney General’s office received more than 2,000 complaints for personal services ranging from snow removal to party planning. A written contract is a consumers best protection when hiring someone for personal services.
- Landlord and tenant disputes
Disputes over rents, building conditions and security deposits were among the 1,800 complaints filed in 2012. The Attorney General offers a mediation service for tenants attempting to recover security deposits, eliminating the necessity of filing a lawsuit.
Consumers having difficulty with mortgage payments often fall victim to deceitful mortgage modification counselors. The Homeowner Protection Program provides legal services for homeowners facing foreclosure.
- Home construction and repair
Always check with the Better Business Bureau before entering into contract with a builder. Also check local references. Homeowners in New York may cancel a contract within three days of signing.
- Retail sales
The increased use of gift cards has come with an increase of complaints. The Attorney General urges consumers to only buy gift cards from retailers they know and be familiar with fees and restrictions.
- Mail order
To ensure you are dealing with a reputable company, make sure any mail order firm you are doing business with has a working customer service line and a real street address (not just a P.O. Box number.)
Always check your phone bills for unauthorized charges and fees.
“Our top ten list reflects the complaints filed by New Yorkers across the state, which helped our investigators and attorneys stop scam artists It’s critical that frauds are reported to the authorities so that we can hold wrongdoers accountable, limit their damage, and protect consumers.” — Attorney General Schneiderman
Consumers may file complaints at the Attorney Generals website, or by calling 1-800-771-7755.