Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Chief Counsel of the Consumer Protection Division, Abby Kuzma, announced consumer complaints are on the rise compared to this time last year.
The economy is partly to blame for the increase along with improved awareness among consumers on how to file a complaint.
“Consumer complaints have dramatically risen in a number of areas as a result of the economic crisis,” Zoeller said. “When times are tough and people are facing rising debts, foreclosures or are unemployed they are more vulnerable to fraudulent schemes. Scams involving offers of help to those in trouble are the worst.”
The steep increase in credit complaints includes the unauthorized charges and inaccurate late fees on credit or debit cards and phony debt reduction services and foreclosure consultant scams. Credit services and lending or mortgage complaints do not constitute a majority of the volume of complaints received by the office, however the risks associated with these types of deceptions can be particularly devastating. Prevention and education efforts are a top priority for the Consumer Protection Division.
While the financial toll of the recession may have caused more consumers to become victims of fraud, some categories actually received fewer complaints as a result of the down economy. Consumers filed significantly fewer complaints related to buyers’ clubs, health services and fitness clubs, gas and fuel prices, magazine subscriptions, entertainment and recreation, prescription drugs, and home repair and construction.
“Consumer fraud trends are watched closely in Indiana and around the country to identify possible areas of growing risk for Hoosiers,” Kuzma said. “By tracking these trends, we are better equipped to respond to complaints, warn consumers of the threats and dedicate investigation and prosecution resources where they are most needed to stop perpetrators of fraud and scams.”
The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) released a list of the country’s top 10 consumer complaints. The list closely mirrored Indiana’s top areas of complaint including telemarketing, credit services and Internet goods and services.
It is the mission of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to investigate and respond to consumer complaints to ensure safe and fair commerce in the state of Indiana. The division works to educate and protect Hoosiers from unscrupulous businesses and individuals as well as professional license holders who may pose a threat to Indiana consumers.