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Missouri Attorney General

Top 10 Complaints

2012 Top 10 Complaints

Attorney General Chris Koster has released the top 10 consumer complaints reported to his office in 2012. Leading the list were complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls to people on Missouriís No-Call list. Below are the top 10 complaints filed with the Attorney Generalís Office in 2012 (including the number of complaints received):

  1. No-Call Complaints (39,990) – On average, consumers filed 212 complaints each working day, double the amount from two years ago. The Attorney General’s Office asks consumers to report unwanted calls to the No-Call complaint hotline at 1-866-buzzoff (1-866-289-9633).
  2. Debt Collectors (1,769) – State and federal laws protect consumers from harassment. Consumers who believe they are being harassed should report the behavior to the Attorney General’s Office.
  3. Mortgage/Foreclosure/Loan Modifications (1,648) – Many struggling homeowners have filed complaints concerning foreclosures and difficulties with the loan modification process. The National Mortgage Settlement provides $25 billion in relief to homeowners whose loans are with the five settling banks: Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial. Consumers should report any concerns that the terms of the settlement are not being met to the Attorney General’s Office.
  4. Mail and Phone Solicitations (1,432) – Consumers continue to be inundated with mail, emails and telephone calls offering them “valuable prizes.” Often, the mail looks official, as if it is from a government agency. Instead, these are scams designed to entice consumers to give out their financial information or to send money. Foreign lottery promotions are the largest type of sweepstakes scams that affect consumers nationwide. Consumers should not give financial information to people they do not know or wire money to strangers. Any consumer who is not sure whether an offer is legitimate should call the Attorney General’s Office before taking action.
  5. Telephone Cramming and Billing (1,165) - Cramming happens when a consumer receives charges on phone bills for services not ordered; often the charges are by third parties. To detect cramming, consumers should thoroughly review their phone bills. Consumers who notice unwarranted charges should contact their phone service carrier to request that unauthorized charges be removed and that they receive a refund.
  6. Credit and Debit Card (1,165) – Complaints involved both charges that the consumer never authorized and double-billing on the card or account after making a purchase. The Attorney General recommends that consumers be wary of authorizing direct bank account debiting and not to provide bank account numbers over the phone. Using a credit card does provide some protection under federal law granting consumers the right to challenge unauthorized charges, but this must generally be done in writing within 60 days of the charge appearing on the consumer’s monthly statement. Even so, consumers are encouraged to provide credit card information only to familiar merchants contacted by the consumer.
  7. Home Repair and Remodeling (928) – Typical home-repair scammers go door-to-door, offering to do work but asking for money up-front. The majority of door-to-door schemes involved asphalt driveway scams, roof and chimney repairs, and remodeling work inside the home, often following storms. Many home-repair scam artists are not licensed, are not from the area, do not provide a detailed contract, and usually demand cash payments.
  8. Publications and Magazine Sales (823) – In 2012, the Attorney General’s Office saw an increase in this category of consumer complaints. In some complaints, telemarketing companies offered new subscriptions or renewals at discounted rates, or with the promise of a prize, but once the telemarketer had the consumer’s credit card information it charged inflated rates or failed to provide the magazines. Other complaints involved door-to-door sales people who claimed to be raising money for college, camp, or charity, but then never received the publication. Concerned consumers should check directly with the school or charity to see if sales are being conducted in the area at that time.
  9. Cable/Satellite Services (670) – Complaints to the Attorney General’s Office ranged from complaints about installation and price discrepancies to channel selections. Consumers should be cautious when ordering a new service, and should always read the fine print.
  10. Automobile Repair (641) - While most repair shops are honest, it is very easy for an unethical mechanic to convince car owners that unnecessary repairs are needed. The Attorney General advises consumers to get a written estimate before repairs are made, have repairs made by a certified mechanic, and verify that the business honors existing warranties and guarantees repairs.

2011 Top 10 Complaints

Attorney General Chris Koster has released the top 10 consumer complaints reported to his office in 2011. Violations of Missouriís No-Call Law topped the annual list with more than 22,000 complaints, more than twice the number of all other complaints combined.

  1. No-Call Complaints – On average, consumers file approximately 89 complaints against telemarketers each working day. Koster warns consumers to be wary of giving any financial information over the telephone and to do so only when the consumer initiates the call.
  2. Debt Collectors – The Attorney General’s Office experienced an increase in the number of complaints filed against debt collectors in the last year. Many consumers indicate they are being harassed for debts they may not even owe. Others claim the debt collection agencies are abusive, threatening, and include repeated calls when attempting to collect a debt. Koster encourages consumers to be aware of their rights and to file complaints with his office if they believe they are being illegally harassed by debt collectors.
  3. Telephone Cramming and Billing – “Cramming” is when a consumer receives a charge on his phone bill for services he did not order. Consumers should thoroughly review their telephone bill each month for evidence of cramming, which can include charges as small as $1 or $2. The Attorney General’s Office also received many complaints regarding unauthorized fees from third parties on their telephone bills. Koster advises consumers who notice unwarranted charges to contact their carrier and request that the charge be removed and a refund issued.
  4. Credit and Debit Card – A fourth major category of complaints by consumers in 2011 was unauthorized charges on credit and debit cards. Scams such as these can occur by telephone, email, or text messaging. The Attorney General recommends that consumers never authorize direct bank account debits or reveal their bank account number over the phone. Federal law grants consumers the right to challenge some unauthorized charges, but the challenge must be made in writing within 60 days of the charge appearing on the consumer’s monthly statement. Koster encourages consumers to provide credit card information only to familiar merchants and only when the consumer initiates the call.
  5. Home Repair and Remodeling – Complaints against home improvements/home repair contractors are common every year. The typical scammer will go door-to-door asking for money up front from vulnerable consumers, often offering discounts for “left-over” product. Common door-to-door schemes involve driveway asphalting, roof and chimney repairs, and remodeling work inside the home. The scam artists are often not licensed with the local municipality, are not from the area, do not provide a detailed contract, and usually demand cash payments. Consumers are advised to do business with local, reputable businesses; to require identification of the supervisor and a written estimate of all proposed work and final price; and, finally, to consult with a trusted friend or family member before authorizing any work.
  6. Mortgage/Foreclosure/Loan Modifications – Many struggling homeowners have filed complaints concerning foreclosure on their homes and the loan modification process. Common complaints include relentless requests for paperwork already provided by the borrower. The Attorney General’s Office has also received complaints from consumers who actually get temporary loan modifications but fail to get permanent solutions.
  7. Cable/Satellite Services – Many consumer filed complaints that cable and satellite companies lured them into contracts over the telephone with low promotional price quotes and then charged them three times as much as their monthly bills because of additional services that were not disclosed over the phone. Consumers also frequently complained about termination fees that were not clearly disclosed when the service was purchased.
  8. Lotteries and Sweepstakes – “Congratulations, you have just won $10,000!” The Missouri Attorney General warns consumers to be leery of telephone calls, emails, or letters with statements like this. Scam artists often use the promise of a valuable prize or award to entice consumers to send money, buy overpriced products or services, or contribute to bogus charities. Fake foreign lottery promotions are the most common of these scams nationwide. Koster warns consumers never to pay to collect their winnings.
  9. Automobile Repair – While most repair shops are honest, it is very easy for an unethical mechanic to convince the average person, who does not know much about his or her car, that unnecessary repairs are needed. People often have no idea that they have been ripped off. The Attorney General advises consumers to get a written estimate before repairs are made, to have repairs made by a certified mechanic who honors the existing warranty, and make sure repairs are guaranteed.
  10. Business Opportunity Scams – Lured by deceptive promises of easy income, many would-be entrepreneurs jump into the arms of con artists who claim “we are not just selling you a business, we put you IN business.” The Attorney General warns consumers that these types of scams can inflict major economic hardship. When promises of profits seem exceptionally attractive or when there is a hard sell to sign up immediately or risk losing the opportunity, the consumer should meticulously research the company and individuals involved before investing.

2010 Top 10 Complaints

Attorney General Chris Koster has released the top 10 consumer complaints reported to his office in 2010. Complaints against debt collectors led the list, with more than 2200 calls to the Attorney Generalís office from consumers.

  1. Debt Collectors -- there has been an increase in the number of complaints filed against debt collectors. Many consumers who file complaints indicate they are being harassed by debt collectors for debts they may not even owe. Others claim the debt collection agencies are abusive, threatening, and include repeated calls when attempting to collect a debt. Other complaints indicate consumers have notified the debt collection companies to cease contacting them, but without success.

    In an effort to protect consumers from these abusive practices, the Attorney General has filed actions against debt collectors alleging violations of Missouriís Merchandising Practices Act. The question of whether the Attorney General has the authority to protect these consumers is before the Missouri Court of Appeals.  
  2. Credit and Debit Cards -- telemarketers continue to find ways to scam consumers out of their money. Complaints continue to rise from individuals who have had their money taken through unauthorized debits from their checking account or by accessing their credit card information. Scams such as these can occur by telephone, email, or text messaging. The Missouri Attorney General continues to advise consumers not to provide any personal information to an unknown source and/or unless they initiate the call themselves.

    These high-tech thefts violate state and federal criminal laws. The Attorney General prosecutes this fraud in the sale of merchandise.
  3. Telephone Cramming -- cramming happens when you receive a charge to your phone bill for services you did not order. For consumers to understand that they are a victim of telephone cramming means they have to thoroughly review their telephone bill. Cramming charges can be as small as $1 or $2 and consumers may not pay attention to such detail. In other cramming related charges, consumers may be charged a much higher amount and believe they actually owe the fee. The Missouri Attorney General advises consumers who notice unwarranted charges to contact your carrier and request the charge be removed.

    This office has investigated numerous incidents of this fraud obtaining removal of the charges. In addition to filing a complaint with this office, consumers should notify the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
  4. Mortgage/Foreclosure/Loan Modifications -- many struggling homeowners have filed complaints concerning foreclosure on their homes and the loan modification process. Homeowners complain about the relentless requests for paperwork already provided and/or lost by the lender. In addition, complaints have been filed because consumers who actually get temporary loan modifications fail to get permanent solutions.

    The Attorney Generalís Office has been working alongside other attorneys general in a 50-state investigation, demanding that banks stop these abusive practices.
  5. Home Repairs and Remodeling -- complaints against home improvements/home repair contractors are usually the most common consumer complaint. The typical scammer will go door to door asking for money up front from vulnerable consumers. Most door-to-door schemes involve asphalt driveway scams, roof and chimney repairs, and remodeling work inside the home. These types of complaints involve scam artists that are not licensed, are not from the area, do not provide a detailed contract, and usually demand cash payments.

    This fraud, which ranks nearly every year in the top ten, has become increasingly sophisticated with schemes designed to conceal the identities of swindlers. The Attorney General has opened investigations into several ďtravelerĒ organizations and criminal charges are pending.
  6. Lotteries and Sweepstakes -- ďCongratulations, you have just won $10,000!Ē The Missouri Attorney General warns consumers to be leery of telephone calls, emails, or letters with statements like this. Scam artist often use the promise of a valuable prize or award to entice consumers to send money, buy overpriced products or services, or contribute to bogus charities. People who fall for their ploys may end up paying more and more for the products ó if they ever get them at all. Foreign lottery promotions are the largest type of lotteries that affect consumers nationwide. The Missouri Attorney General warns consumers not to pay to collect their winnings. Also, donít wire or transfer funds to a company pretending to be legitimate. Once you do this, it is very difficult to find the con artist to recoup your money.
  7. Pre-Need Burial Plans/Funeral Home/Cemetaries -- the Missouri Attorney General actively pursues companies that do not properly handle money paid to them by consumers for pre-need services. Under Missouri law, the funeral home is required to put 80 percent of the purchase price into a trust fund accessible only to cover funeral expenses. Consumers have a right to see a record of all transactions on their behalf in the trust account.

    You can cancel a pre-paid funeral plan at any time and get your payments refunded, minus 20 percent of the original purchase price. As an alternative to pre-paid funerals, consumers can set money aside in their own savings or trust account, to be used for a funeral at the time of death.

    The sale of these contracts are now regulated by a state board in the Missouri Division of Professional Registration. Consumers should also consider filing any complaints with the division at http://pr.mo.gov/embalmers.asp.
  8. Cable/Satellite Services -- complaints with cable and satellite companies continue to be on the rise. In addition to faulty installations and price discrepancies, many consumers have filed complaints with regard to cable and satellite companies ceasing free programming or channels in which consumers purchased specific packages, such as NFL. This past year, the Attorney General has aggressively pursued companies such as Dish Network and Directv to prevent further deceptive and unfair practices.
  9. Automobile Repair -- automobile repairs make up one of the largest groups of consumer complaints. While most repair shops are honest, it is very easy for an unethical mechanic to convince car owners that unnecessary repairs are needed because the average person does not know much about their car. People often have no idea that they have been ripped off. The Attorney General advises consumers to make sure they get a written estimate before repairs are made, have repairs made by a certified mechanic who honors the existing warranty, and make sure repairs are guaranteed.

    While the number of complaints against any particular repair shop may not be large, consumers should also investigate the company by checking complaints with the Attorney Generalís Know Mo business complaint database at http://www.consumer.ago.mo.gov/Know_MO/.
  10. Automobile Warranty/Service Contracts -- the Missouri Attorney General continues to receive complaints from consumers who purchased automobile extended service contracts. Complaints vary from misleading purchases through the telemarketers selling the product, refunds, and undisclosed limitations on coverage.

    Since the Attorney General began prosecuting marketers and sellers of these extended mechanical coverage contracts and formed the Attorney Generalís Auto Service Contract Task Force, these complaints have dropped from the top of the list in 2009 to tenth. This year the Attorney Generalís office will work with the Missouri legislature to pass needed improvements in consumer protection laws so that consumers will have the information they need to make an informed decision before they pay for the contract.
 
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