Local News

Lending tops list of NC consumer complaints

Posted March 5, 2012 3:03 p.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2012 4:18 p.m. EST

— Complaints about lending were the most common consumer issues handled by the North Carolina Attorney General's Office in 2011, officials said Monday.

The total number of complaints filed with the state Consumer Protection Division was down last year, to 18,483 from 21,879 in 2010.

Consumers filed 3,988 complaints about interest rate hikes, charges for late payments, foreclosure relief scams and other lending-related issues in 2011, up from 3,909 the previous year. Lending complaints hadn't topped the annual list since 2002, officials said.

Complaints about health care, which ranked No. 2 on the 2011 list, were down sharply, from 4,605 in 2010 to 3,271 last year. Complaints about Do Not Call list violators jumped from 2,514 in 2010 to 2,933 last year, placing them third on the list.

Credit and collections, vehicle repairs and purchases, telemarketing fraud, home repair, television services, Internet and computers and telecommunications complaints rounded out the top 10 issues for North Carolina consumers last year, officials said.

“Scammers are always looking to make a fast buck, and they’re experts at gaining your trust,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. “Learn to recognize a scam or bad deal so you can avoid getting ripped off, and report potential fraud to my office to help us enforce the law.”

Cooper offered the following tips to help North Carolinians avoid scams and unfair business practices:

  • If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Reject high-pressure sales pitches. If the offer is good only for a day, 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 emails 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. Once you’re on the list, report Do No Call violators to the Attorney General’s Office.

North Carolina consumers who want to check up on a business, get tips or file a complaint can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling toll-free 877-5-NO-SCAM or by submitting a complaint online.