´Tis the season…
Here are the top 10 consumer complaints as reported by California district attorneys:
1. Identity theft – Thieves pose as the victim to open credit card or cellular phone accounts.
2. Internet fraud – Includes misrepresented items sold through Internet auctions, or items that were purchased, but never sent. Also includes Internet scams such as advance fee loans, work-at-home schemes or pleas for money from deposed Nigerian officials.
3. Negative option contracts – Deceptive or misleading advertising that signs someone for goods or services without consent, such as free trial memberships that require the consumer to call and cancel the service.
4. Phone company fraud – This includes slamming, switching a customer to a new long distance carrier without consent, and cramming, billing customers for services they didn´t authorize.
5. Contractor fraud – The California State License Board, which regulates contractors, received more than 23,000 complaints last year. The survey finds that consumers are often frustrated by inadequate restitution for fraud, long waits for resolution and confusing contracts.
6. Auto repair fraud – Includes payment for repairs that aren´t made and false advertising.
7. Auto purchasing and leasing – Consumer complaints include the addition of unwanted extras added to cars, such as alarms, dealers who fail to pay off the loan or lease of a trade-in promptly, and dealers who collect excessive DMV fees, or don´t forward the fees to the state.
8. Immigration consultant fraud – These complaints include consultants who made false promises by guaranteeing a work permit or other immigration benefit, unqualified consultants, not delivering any services or persuading a customer to lie on an immigration documents.
9. Dietary and health supplement fraud – Includes cure-alls, weight-loss scams and risky products that could cause health problems.
10. Phony prizes – Misleading prize notifications that tell consumers they´ve won a car, prize or vacation, but then require a “processing fee” to collect the winnings.
Dishonorable mention went to women´s gifting clubs, such as “Women Helping Women,” that promise to turn a $5,000 investment into a $40,000 payoff. Officials say this is a pyramid scheme that relies on recruiting new members and will collapse with most of the investors losing their money.