N.C. Attorney General's Office Releases Top Consumer Complaints

N.C. Attorney General's Office Releases Top Consumer Complaints
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April 13, 2016

Last year, more than 19,000 people filed written complaints with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. The top complaints are likely ones we've all encountered at some point: telemarketing fraud, unwanted sales calls, and lending.

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office released a list of the top three complaints and tips on how to avoid getting scammed yourself. The list is based on written complaints filed with the department and does not include any help from consumer protection experts over the phone or by email.

Number 1: Telemarketing fraud

Complaints about telemarketing fraud come in at number one, up from second place the previous year. In 2014, the department received about 5,800 complaints about fraudulent phone calls seeking money or personal information. Criminals and con artists usually located in other countries make the calls and pose as IRS agents, law enforcement, tech support and utility companies to try to rob victims. Other common telemarketing scams include sweepstakes, lotteries, sweetheart scams and grandparent scams.

To avoid telemarketing scams:
Never pay money to or share personal financial information with someone you don't know who calls you on the phone, no matter who they claim to be.

Don't rely on Caller ID to decide if a caller is legitimate because scammers can use technology to make it look like their calls are coming from a legitimate business, a local phone number, or even the IRS or police.

Number 2: Do Not Call violations

Complaints about Do Not Call violations by telemarketers were second on the list with nearly 3,500 complaints. These include complaints from consumers who get unwanted telemarketing sales calls even after placing their number on the National Do Not Call Registry as well as complaints about illegal prerecorded calls (robocalls). Common robocalls include pitches for lower interest rates on credit cards, medical alert systems, and home alarm systems.

To cut down on unwanted sales calls:
List your home and mobile telephone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry and then report violators.

Hang up on robocalls and don't press a number when prompted to. Pressing a number to get more information or try to stop the calls confirms your phone number is valid and is likely to result in more calls.

Ask your telephone company about technology to block robocalls.

Number 3: Lending

Complaints about lending were number three on the list for 2015, with 2,526 complaints total. Common problems include high interest rates, charges for late or missed payments, foreclosure relief and loan modification scams, adjustable rate mortgages, prepayment penalties and loan fees.

Expensive online loans are another source of lending complaints. payday loans are illegal in North Carolina, and Cooper and the North Carolina Office of the 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.

To avoid problems with loans:
Shop around with several lenders before you take out any kind of loan, and be sure to compare all costs and fees. In particular, look at the annual percentage rate (APR) and the monthly payment.

Beware offers of help from anyone who tells you to stop paying your mortgage and pay them instead. It's against North Carolina law to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure or loan modification assistance.

For free help dealing with foreclosure, homeowners can contact the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project by calling 1-888-442-8188 or 1-888-623-8631.

Other top sources of complaints

Complaints about motor vehicles, home repair, credit and collections, health care, Internet and computers, furniture, and telecommunications round out the list of top ten consumer complaints for 2015. The complete list of top ten consumer complaints of 2015 is available at ncdoj.gov along with a list of top ten consumer tips.

North Carolina consumers who want to check out a business, get tips or file a complaint can contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.