For the 12th year in a row, internet-related complaints topped state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s list of consumer complaints logged by his office.
To mark National Consumer Protection Week, Schneiderman on Thursday released a list of the top 10 frauds reported to his office in 2017.
“The best weapon against fraud is an informed consumer,” said Schneiderman, encouraging anyone who believes they have been victimized by a scammer to report the scam. “Fraudsters will always look for new ways to line their pockets at the expense of unsuspecting consumers.”
Here’s a look at the top scams affecting New Yorkers in the past year:
- Internet fraud, including child safety, privacy, civil rights, spyware, consumer fraud and free speech.
- Automobile complaints, including sales, services, financing, rentals and repairs.
- Consumer-related services, including alarm companies, dry cleaners, furniture repair and refinishers, restaurants, hair and nail salons, movers, watch repairs and other services for personal household use.
- Landlord/tenant complaints such as rent security deposit issues and allegations of tenant harassment.
- Utilities-related complaints, including reports on cable and satellite companies, energy services and suppliers and wireless and residential phone carriers.
- Credit, including debt collection, credit card billing, debt settlement, credit repair, credit reporting agencies and identity theft.
- Retail sales, including rent-to-own, food, clothing and any other sale of goods for personal household use.
- Home repair/Construction, including reports of home improvement services not delivered or done poorly.
- Mail order.
- Mortgage, including mortgage modification, foreclosures and mortgage and loan broker fraud.
Here are some tips for protecting yourself and your families from fraud:
- Don’t engage in transactions that involve personal, financial or credit card information while using an open and unsecured WiFi connection.
- Make sure you choose an internet plan that is appropriate for your needs and ensure you are getting the internet speeds promised.
- Make sure to get a written contract for consumer services that clearly defines the restrictions and obligations of both the consumer and service provider. Shop around and get estimates from at least three vendors. Check references and with the Better Business Bureau to confirm the company is reliable and reputable.
- If you’re contacted by a debt collector, you have the right to demand verification of the debt and the collector may not harass or abuse consumers or provide misleading information. Additionally, debt collectors cannot sue on debts outside the applicable statute of limitations.
- When making a retail purchase, check the return and refund policies. Merchants are required to post their refund policies. Any store that fails to do so must give consumers 30 days to get a refund in the manner that the purchase was made.
- You have three days after signing a home improvement contract to cancel it. Never pay full price up front, instead negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job.
- Make sure mail order companies have a real street address and an operating customer service line.
- Look out for mortgage offers that claim to stop or delay foreclosure payments for an upfront fee or make payments on your behalf. Be wary of companies that suggest an affiliation with a government agency or that works with attorneys but does not provide legal services.
- Beware of scammers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Treasury Department who demand payment for unpaid taxes and threaten arrest if payment is not made. The IRS will never demand immediate payment or payment information over the phone. Do not provide these callers with any personal information.
- Be suspicious of anyone who calls and claims to be your grandchild and asks you to immediately send money or buy large-dollar amounts of gift cards. Verify that there is an actual emergency by calling other friends and family before wiring money or buying gift cards.
To learn more about your rights and how to report scams and fraud to the Attorney General’s Office, call (800) 771-7755 or visit ag.ny.gov/bureau/consumer-frauds-bureau.
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