While some repeat offenders headed the list of complaints made to state and local consumer protection agencies, real estate issues made the list for the first time. In addition, changing times have brought some changing methods—as well as increases in some forms of fraud.
A survey by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI) revealed that new complaints ranged from bedbugs to Internet penny auctions, gold buying companies and the use of prepaid card products to bilk consumers out of their hard-earned funds. But most of the biggest consumer headaches still came from familiar culprits.
Here are the top 10 complaint categories lodged by consumers in 2011: 10. Tie: Household Goods and Home Solicitations
Whether the new furniture never came or you’ve just been interrupted by a telemarketer for the 50th time during dinner, you’ve probably been subject to one of the problems associated with these two categories, which tied for tenth place.
The most common problems associated with household goods were misrepresentations, failure to deliver and faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances. For home solicitations, the list included misrepresentations or failure to deliver (again) in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations and violations of the do-not-call law.
9. Real Estate
The chief offenders here were timeshare sales and resales, retirement communities and assisted living facilities and real estate fraud. Many of the retirement community/assisted living facility problems were connected with efforts to sell units and get back large entry fees.
One example cited was that of a unit that originally sold for $189,000, but before the owner could get any money back, the unit had to be resold. However, the adult community upped the price to $399,000, making it nearly impossible for the owner to find another buyer and recoup any funds.
While Publishers Clearing House may still ring your bell, so will less scrupulous individuals promising you the moon.
Among these scams are bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams and the “grandparent scam”—in which someone reporting to be a friend or relative sends an e-mail claiming to be stranded in Europe (or Canada, or some other remote location) and in dire need of funds; grandparents (and others, too) usually send the money without question.
7. Tie: Internet Sales and Landlord/Tenant
Another tie for seventh place pits Internet sales against landlord/tenant issues. In the former case, the most common scams are misrepresentations or other deceptive practices and failure to deliver online purchases—like that collector’s edition Spiderman comic you bought on eBay from a seller with a zero rating.
In the landlord-vs.-tenant category, there are unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failures to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes and illegal eviction tactics. 6. Services