For the third consecutive year, home repair and telephone “slamming” remained the top two consumer complaints in Attorney General Jim Ryan’s office while consumer credit problems climbed from sixth to third place.
Ten percent of the consumer complaints received by Ryan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau — 2,395 complaints — involved construction and home repair problems, according to statistics compiled by the bureau. Slamming, or switching a person’s phone service without his or her consent, was close behind with 1,788 complaints.
Consumer credit problems, such as billing errors or unsolicited credit cards, leaped by more than 700 complaints between 1997 and 1998, going from 927 to 1,630. The annual Consumer Protection Week beginning Feb. 1 has chosen credit as its focus in order to teach consumers about how to protect themselves against credit fraud.
Following is the Top Ten list of consumer complaints received by the Attorney General’s Office during calendar 1998.
Home Repair 2,395 10.2%
Slamming 1,788 7.6%
Credit 1,630 6.9%
Used Vehicle Sales 1,393 5.9%
Cramming 1,246 5.3%
Auto Repair 1,229 5.2%
Contests, Promotions & Scheme 1,159 4.9%
Mail Order 894 3.8%
Electronic Devices 850 3.6%
Business & Professional Services 542 2.3%
“With this week designated as National Consumer Protection Week, now is a good time for all Illinois consumers to be aware that they can be victims of scams,” Ryan said. “Last year, as in most years, our office received nearly 24,000 individual consumer complaints. This is a very large number, but it probably represents only a fraction of the actual number of people who are victimized but simply don’t report it.”
In particular, the Attorney General has been in the forefront of protecting consumers against telecommunications fraud, including slamming and cramming. The Attorney General has filed more lawsuits against companies that slam consumers than any other state.
Cramming, the newest telecommunications fraud, represents unauthorized monthly charges to a consumer’s phone bill, such as voice mail. Illinois was the first state in the nation to sue fraudulent companies for cramming.
“Our list shows the wide variety of consumer problems facing Illinoisans,” Ryan said. “Consumers — especially the elderly who are so often targeted — can follow some simple rules to avoid becoming victims. Never give out credit card or other personal information to people you don’t know. Do business with individuals or businesses you either know personally or who have been referred to you by someone you trust. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is and should be avoided. And never be pressured into making a quick decision which you might regret later.”Details