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Survey reveals nation’s top 10 consumer complaints

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Do-not-call violations and other telemarketing abuses were the fastest-growing consumer complaints in 2013, according to the latest report from the annual survey of state and local consumer protection agencies conducted by the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. Forty agencies from 23 states responded to the survey about the complaints they received last year.
“Despite the national do-not-call registry, strict rules concerning robocalls, and other protections, unwanted and fraudulent phone calls are still plaguing American consumers,” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at CFA.
Technology is a major factor in telemarketing abuses.
“Internet phone service, caller ID spoofing software, prepaid cellphones that scammers buy anonymously and discard, auto-dialers and other technology make it easy and inexpensive for crooks to contact U.S. consumers from anywhere in the world,” said Amber Capoun, NACPI president and a legal assistant in the Office of the State Banking Commission in Kansas.
CFA and NACPI surveyed general-purpose consumer protection agencies at the city, county and state level about the top, worst and fastest-growing complaints in 2013. The survey also asked about new kinds of problems that consumers reported, the agencies’ biggest achievements and challenges, and new laws needed to better protect consumers.
One of the biggest challenges that the agencies faced was keeping up with the evolving marketplace, especially dealing with scammers targeting U.S. consumers from other countries. The technologies that are used to mask callers’ real identities and locations make telemarketing fraud and abuse particularly challenging for state and local consumer protection agencies to deal with, especially when the culprits are overseas.
“Stepped-up telemarketing enforcement and partnerships between federal, state and local agencies are crucial to investigating and prosecuting these cases,” said Capoun.
Industry must also help combat these problems. “Payment processors and others whose services crooks exploit should exercise due diligence and be alert for signs of fraud,” said Grant. “If they knowingly facilitate telemarketing fraud, or willfully ignore it, they should be held responsible.”
Grant lauded the recent announcement by Green Dot Corp. to phase out its MoneyPak cash reload product, which has become a popular means for fraudsters to obtain victims’ payments. The survey report notes that the telecom industry is working to prevent caller ID spoofing and other abuses of telephone systems. “Carriers could do more, such as offering customers comprehensive blocks for all robocall sales calls where that is technically feasible,” said Grant.
The survey report provides real-life examples of complaints from the agencies’ files and tips for how consumers can protect themselves. “The stories from agencies’ files illustrate the wide range of problems that consumers encounter, from faulty appliances to false advertising, high-pressure door-to-door sales to sweetheart swindles,” said Capoun.
“The survey highlights the hard work that state and local agencies do to educate the public, resolve complaints and keep the marketplace fair for all,” said Grant. “Their actions demonstrate the positive role that government can play in people’s lives.”
The full survey report is at CFA provides additional consumer education materials at, including a guide to understanding telemarketing rights as well as tips and videos about how to spot various types of scams and avoid becoming a victim.

North American Consumer Protection Investigators
North American Consumer Protection Investigators is an association whose purpose is to provide a medium through which consumer protection investigators, both civil and criminal, of the respective governments (federal, state, county, city, province, district or territory) receive educational training at annual conferences; network and exchange information; and cooperate in matters involving consumer protection investigations, education and litigations of mutual concern to all.

Consumer Federation of America
The Consumer Federation of America is an association of nearly 300 nonprofit consumer groups that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy and education.

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