Niagara Gazette

March 7, 2014

AG lists top frauds

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has marked the start of National Consumer Protection Week by releasing his list of the Top 10 Consumer Frauds of 2013.

The list is based on a review of consumer complaints received by the attorney general.

“My office will use every legal tool at our disposal to hold fraudsters and unscrupulous businesses accountable," Schneiderman said. "I encourage all New Yorkers who feel they have been victims of fraud to contact my office." 

Internet-related complaints topped the attorney general's 2013 list. That was followed by automobile-related scams and credit-related complaints involving debt collection, credit card billing and identity theft.

Schneiderman said his office also continues to receive a large number of mortgage-related complaints. The attorney general said the number of complaints and calls to his office demonstrates the extent to which consumers, who are struggling to stay on top of their mortgages, are being targeted by fraudulent and unscrupulous loan modification consultants.

In June 2012, Schneiderman announced the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP). The $60 million program funds legal service providers and housing counseling organizations serving at-risk homeowners across the state.

Homeowners who need assistance can call 1-855-HOME-456 for help.

With 4,753 Internet-related complaints, Schneiderman suggested that consumers should always make sure websites are secure before providing any financial information, such as their credit card or bank account number. Secure website addresses usually have a symbol, such as a lock, on them

Complaints about automobile buying, leasing, repair, service contracts and rentals, at 2,614. were second on the AG's list. Schneiderman said New Yorkers should know that they are protected by the strongest auto-leasing law in the country, among other protections. 

Credit complaints, relating to debt collection, credit card billing, debt settlement, payday loans, credit repair, credit reporting agencies and identity theft totaled 2,295 in 2013. Debt collection practices were the most common complaint. 

Schneiderman said New Yorkers should know their rights. For example, debt collectors may not harass or abuse consumers, or provide misleading information.

The attorney general said anyone who believe they've been the victims of scams should file complaints by calling 1-800-771-7755.

The following are the New York State Attorney General's Top 10 consumer complaints of 2013: 1. Internet (privacy issues; spyware; consumer frauds) 4,753 2. Automobile (buying; leasing; repair; service contracts; rentals) 2,614 3. Credit (debt collection; credit card billing; debt settlement; payday loans; credit repair; credit reporting agencies; identity theft) 2,295 4. Consumer-Related Services (security systems; restaurant/catering services; tech repairs; dating services) 2,158 5. Mortgage (mortgage modifications; mortgage and loan broker fraud; foreclosures) 1,748 6. Landlord / Tenant (deposit releases; tenant harassment) 1,733 7. Furniture / Major Household Appliances 1,168 8. Home Repair / Construction (home improvement services not delivered or done poorly) 995 9. Retail Sales (any sale of goods: food; clothing; rent to own; wholesale clubs; price gouging) 913 10. Mail Order (purchases made online or from a catalog) 816