Attorney General's News Release
December 27, 2006
Financing and credit issues at top of the list of consumer complaints to Attorney General's Office in 2006
Jefferson City, Mo. — Consumer complaints about financing, credit and debt collection were the number one category of complaints to the Consumer Protection Division of Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon's office in 2006. Nixon today released his annual "Top 10" list of consumer complaints from the 90,523 calls, letter, e-mails and online complaints that came into his office in the past year.
The finance category of complaints took over the top spot in 2006 from complaints about telephone slamming, cramming and billing, which had been the lead category for the previous three years.
The complete Top 10 list of complaints for 2006, along with examples of legal action, includes:
- Financing, credit and debt collection (4,630 complaints and inquiries). Among the legal actions Nixon took during 2006 on these types of complaints were a settlement with Ameriquest Mortgage to pay $3.2 million to Missouri consumers, and actions to stop mortgage fraud in St. Joseph, credit repair fraud in Springfield, and advance loan fraud in Clinton County.
- Charitable solicitations (2,021). Nixon sued to stop a charity scam falsely claiming to benefit children of military personnel killed in Iraq; obtained an order requiring the directors of a Kansas City raffle that never took place to pay $100,000; stopped a case of "badge fraud" in St. Louis County; stopped the placement of donation boxes in Joplin by a man falsely claiming the money would go to Special Olympics; and sued the operator of a raffle offering houses in Kansas City and St. Louis after concerns were raised about the raffles and the prizes.
- Auto sales, repair, odometer, title and towing (1,939). Nixon is prosecuting two Kansas City men on criminal charges of odometer fraud; he shut down a Morgan County auto repair shop whose owner defrauded and allegedly assaulted customers; and he obtained a settlement with motorcycle dealers in Springfield and Columbia that included $198,000 for penalties and consumer restitution.
- Computer software, online services and Internet auctions (1,791). Missouri was the first state to obtain an order to stop the online selling of private cell phone records; Nixon obtained orders against four such businesses in 2006. He also obtained a guilty plea and restitution order against an Independence woman defrauding consumers through online auctions.
- Telephone slamming, cramming and billing (1,382). Missouri led a 34-state settlement to stop a Nevada company from sending "activation" checks for small amounts that would trigger monthly charges to businesses and other organizations, along with $120,000 in restitution for those consumers. In another case, a telemarketer caught splicing tapes so he could fraudulently bill for Web services was ordered to pay restitution.
- Home repair and remodeling (1,327). A Florissant man was sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding home owners; another St. Louis contractor was arrested and charged with eight counts of home repair fraud, after earlier in the year being ordered to repay $64,000 to customers. A Hannibal man was charged with running an asphalt scam in Willard, and other home repair contractors around the state were ordered to pay $40,000, $36,000, $49,000 and $22,000 in cases brought by Nixon.
- Lotteries and sweepstakes (1,290). Many such scams were discovered during "Senior Sting 2006," a project by the Attorney General's Office done in conjunction with volunteers from several senior groups around the state. The volunteers collected their mail for one month; the mail was sorted and reviewed closely to identify potential scams for further action.
- Insurance (1,157). Many of the complaints received by the Attorney General's Office were forwarded to the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration for review by that agency.
- Identity theft (1,149). Nixon's office worked with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Missouri and Florida to bring criminal charges against several individuals who allegedly were part of an identity theft ring that stole identity information of Missourians online and used the information to purchase expensive goods.
- Publications, magazines and subscriptions (1,079). Missouri consumers were repaid $116,000 after being improperly billed, thanks to a settlement obtained by Nixon with Time magazine. Two men who sold magazine subscriptions door to door but didn't deliver on the publications were ordered to repay their customers more than $9,500.
Nixon said his office was continuing to make it easier for consumers to file complaints. For the first time in 2006, consumers were able to submit complaints online by using a form Nixon unveiled in February.
"More than 10,000 consumer complaints were submitted this way in 2006, enabling Missourians to file complaints in a speedy and secure manner and helping our analysts and investigators obtain the specific information they need to thoroughly review a complaint," Nixon said. "It's all part of our ongoing effort to make Missouri government more efficient and effective."
Click here to see Top 10 lists of consumer complaints from previous years.
Inquiries from consumers should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-392-8222 (from within Missouri) or 573-751-3321 (outside Missouri).
All media inquiries should be directed to the Press Secretary.
E-mail Phone: 573-751-8844 Fax: 573-751-5818