Local News

AG: Health care most common consumer complaint

Posted March 8, 2010

— The state Consumer Protection Division received 22,665 complaints last year, an increase of nearly 19 percent over 2008, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday.

For the fifth year in a row, health care-related complaints topped the list. Almost 4,400 people were upset with their insurance, medical providers or health products and services.

Lending was No. 2 on the list, with 3,357 complaints about high interest rates, charges for late or missed payments and pre-payment penalties. Many consumers also were looking for help dealing with foreclosure or had fallen for a foreclosure assistance or loan modification scam.

Telemarketing fraud increased by more than 2,400 complaints over 2008, to 3,008 last year, and was third on the list. Some of the most popular telemarketing schemes pitch bogus lower credit card rates, international lottery tickets, advance fee loans, government grants, identity theft protection, and phony prizes or sweepstakes.

"Hard times can be boom times for scammers, especially those promising help with debts, loan modifications and lower credit card rates. We’re cracking down on these scams, but consumers have got to keep up their guard,” Cooper said in a statement.

Complaints about Do Not Call Registry violators, collections and credit, health clubs, motor vehicles, home furnishings, telecommunications and home repair rounded out the Top 10. Health club complaints hadn't been on the list since 2005, and officials said the spike in complaints was likely tied to an increase in gyms closing their doors in the soft economy.

Cooper offered the following tips to help North Carolinians avoid scams and bad deals:

  • If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Say “no” to high-pressure sales pitches. If the offer is “only good today," walk away. Always read contracts carefully, and never sign a document that you don’t understand or that has blanks to be filled in later.
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers. Never give out your Social Security number, credit card or bank account number or other personal information to anyone you don’t know who calls or e-mails you.
  • North Carolina law makes it illegal to collect advance fees for some types of work, such as foreclosure assistance and debt settlement help. If an advance payment is required for other kinds of transactions, use a credit card if possible. This gives you some protection if your order doesn’t arrive.
  • Do business with companies you know or that are recommended to you. Check companies out with the Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau before making major purchases.
  • Join the Do Not Call Registry to cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls. To sign up, call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register or visit www.donotcall.gov.
  • To protect yourself from identity theft, check your credit report regularly. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each nationwide credit bureau. To access your free credit reports, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

“In this tough economy, people really want to make sure every dollar counts,” Cooper said. “If you experience a scam or bad business deal, we want to hear from you. Even better, we’d like to help you avoid problems by learning to watch out for common consumer pitfalls.”

North Carolina consumers who have a problem with a business can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. To file a complaint, call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free or submit a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.


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  • discowhale Mar 9, 2010

    So we had NEARLY 4400 complaints, in a state of OVER 9 million. That's roughly 5% of residents complaining about insurance, medical providers or health products and services. Remember, gentle readers, that includes everything from stuff that was never meant to be covered by insurance, misunderstandings, to patent products sold in infomercials. It does NOT mean complaints about LACK of health care, a subject the AG can do nothing about.

    95% of the people did not call with a complaint, and that 4400 phone calls isn't from 4400 different people either. So in effect the grand majority either satisfied or willing to solve their own problems.

    Before you ask for fed health care, look at the Post Office, SS and Medicare. All are a terrible, slow, inefficient mess. What we need is med ins across state lines and open competition. That always brings down prices. We need less fed red tape.

    Do we all need to be reminded yearly that the doctors are required to keep our records private!?

  • Bendal1 Mar 9, 2010

    One of my coworkers is a staunch opponent of state-run healthcare. He firmly believes we need to go back to when families pitched in to help their members who needed treatment and couldn't pay for it themselves.

    I asked him if his family could pay for his open-heart surgery if he didn't have health insurance. He admitted they could not. "So what would happen to you, then?" I asked.

    "Well, I guess I'd die." he said.

    I realized that an intelligent discussion on this subject wasn't going to happen at that point.

  • geosol Mar 8, 2010

    But, but, but..... the angry rich man on the radio who tells me what to think said that everything's just fine with healthcare and, besides, i've already got health insurance so i don't care what problems other people may have.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 2010

    "what was most important to the public at that time? probably not healthcare takeover, and STILL ISNT!!! WAKE UP AND STOP DRINKING THE KOOL AID"

    You're right. It wasn't a priority then and still isn't. Back then, policy memos sent out by William Kristol showed Republicans didn't want to compromise or even change certain aspects of Clinton's plan merely for political reasons. With the most expensive system in the world, subpar health care ratings, and astronomical premiums, it should be a priority.

  • goodejrg Mar 8, 2010

    what was most important to the public at that time? probably not healthcare takeover, and STILL ISNT!!! WAKE UP AND STOP DRINKING THE KOOL AID arfamr1006

    I understand that defending the country was a major priority. However, G.W.B. created the Department of Homeland Security and then he disappeared to his Ranch. He wasn't screening airport travelers, patroling our borders, and he definitely wasn't fighting in Iraq. He had plenty of time to put health care reform on the table, if he really wanted to. Instead he made a pitiful attempt to privatize social security & created a bill that allowed the government to listen to our phone calls. Actions speak louder than words, and the lack of action by conservatives speaks volumes about their true priorities.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 2010

    Help isn't help when its forced!!

    Wonder what its called then.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 8, 2010

    whatelseisnew-"Where do people like you come from? How do you get to a place where you think it is acceptable for the Government to force someone else to pay for your health care? Please explain that selfish attitude."

    The same way government pays for the military, roads, police, schools, etc. Taxes pay for what we by ourselves can't pay for. I would rather pay an extra $200 a year in taxes than get stuck with a 100,000 bill if I had a heart attack.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 8, 2010

    Harvard study showing that in 2007 62% of bankruptcies were because of Medical Costs:

    In 1981, it was 8% (bankruptcies from Med Costs)

    In 2001, it was 46% (bankruptcies from Med Costs)

    Ya think we need to do something fast or just let this # keep climbing?...or can society "carry" all these increasing broke & homeless people?

  • ThinkChick Mar 8, 2010



  • arfamr1006 Mar 8, 2010

    Republicans controlled the Executive office, as well as both the House & the Senate from 2000 to 2006. During this time, exactly what was done to reform health care? NOTHING!...this proves exactly how much of a priority health care is to the right wing.

    what was most important to the public at that time? probably not healthcare takeover, and STILL ISNT!!! WAKE UP AND STOP DRINKING THE KOOL AID