Some scams are so common that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel identified them today in an effort to help consumers avoid such prevalent cons. The announcement of the top five most common consumer scams comes during the annual observance of National Consumer Protection Week.
“The best way to prevent yourself from falling victim to a scam is to be educated about the scammers’ tactics and be ready to say ‘No’ to any deal you’re unsure about,” McDaniel said. “We encourage consumers to ask questions, go online to check the legitimacy of the party you’re dealing with, or contact our Consumer Protection Division if they are concerned.”
McDaniel’s Consumer Protection Division handled more than 10,000 complaints last year, many of them related to concerns about legitimate business dealings. However, of those recognized as complaints about scams, these five were identified as the most common:
- Cramming: The practice of the placement of unauthorized charges on a telephone bill. These charges could be just a few cents or a few dollars, but are nevertheless applied to a bill without a consumer’s permission. These are not charges by the telephone company for phone service, but rather charges for other products or services by a third party. McDaniel recommended that consumers be diligent about reading phone bills each month and immediately report any “cramming” charges. Consumers can refuse to pay the unauthorized charges. If they wish, consumers may ask the phone company to block all third party charges
- Credit Repair: Federal law prohibits any company from receiving advance payment in exchange for “repairing” a consumer’s credit score. Regardless, so-called “credit repair” agencies can do nothing to help improve a consumer’s credit that the consumer can’t do himself. McDaniel said consumers can improve their ratings by making prompt, timely debt payments. Also, if there are errors on a consumer’s credit report, the consumer can have these removed himself.
- Wire Fraud: Scam artists will attempt to have a consumer to wire money through work-at-home schemes or fake sweepstakes. Some even claim to be a “favorite grandson” or friend in jeopardy in hopes that the victim will wire funds. A simple way to avoid this very common scam is to never wire money, McDaniel said. Unlike credit card charges, once the money is wired, it is virtually impossible to recall the wire transfer and get the money back.
- Yo-Yo Sales Tactics: In this common scam, consumers agree to terms to purchase a car and go home with the vehicle. Upon returning days later to finalize paperwork, the terms have changed in the form of higher finance costs or new loan terms. In such cases, state law provides that the buyer can cancel the purchase, return the car without any charge for use, and recover any down payment or trade-in.
- Internet Auction Fraud: Victims of this scam purchase an item on an Internet site and are asked to wire the money for the purchase, but never receive the item. The “seller” uses a fake name and fake e-mail address to perpetrate the fraud. Conversely, legitimate sellers may receive calls or e-mails offering to buy, followed by the receipt of a check. But, the amount of the check typically exceeds the purchase price and the seller is asked to wire the difference to the buyer. Only after the seller wires the money does the seller learn that the check from the buyer is bogus. McDaniel recommends using only trusted sites with verified buyers and sellers.