Local News

Health care tops consumer complaints for sixth year

Posted March 7, 2011 10:55 a.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2011 11:27 a.m. EST

— For the sixth year in a row, complaints about the health care industry topped the list of reports to the state Consumer Protection Division in 2010, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday.

Overall, complaints were down slightly – to 21,879 from 22,665 in 2009.

More than 4,600 people complained to the state about health insurance, medical providers, medical billing or collection practices and health products and services. One common complaint came from those who thought they were getting a free trial of weight-loss products but ended up being charged for the products.

Complaints about loans and lending practices were the second-most common issue reported to the state. The "Do Not Call" list came in third, followed by complaints about  telemarketing schemes such as those that pitch bogus lower credit card rates, international lottery tickets, government grants, identity theft protection and phony prizes or sweepstakes.

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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 sends you an e-mail.
  • 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.

“Unfortunately a down economy doesn’t discourage scammers, especially those that promise to help you get out of debt, negotiate a lower mortgage payment, get a job or make money working from home,” Cooper warned.

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.