If the “Internal Revenue Service” (IRS) called you up last year demanding payment, well, you weren’t alone.
Fake IRS and other imposter scams topped the list of fastest-growing complaints to state and local consumer protection agencies in 2015, according to an annual survey by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI).
That finding serves as a friendly reminder to hang up if you receive one of these unsolicited phone calls, particularly one that requires you to turn over payment or sensitive personal information, and then call the agency or company to report it. (Remember, too, the IRS does not ask for credit, debit or prepaid card information over the phone.)
Survey Says …
This annual report is based on survey responses from 33 consumer agencies in 21 states. These agencies were asked about the most common complaints they received in 2015, the fastest-growing complaints, the worst complaints, new kinds of consumer problems, their biggest achievements and challenges, and new laws that are needed to better protect consumers.
Looking at the survey’s findings, it seems there’s no shortage of things for American consumers to complain about, but some gripes, of course, are more common than others. Here are the top complaints of 2015 (defined as those most frequently cited by the agencies as the most common complaints they received last year), per the CFA.
- Auto: Complaints centered on misrepresentations in advertising or sales, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes.
- Home Improvement/Construction: Complaints included shoddy work and failure to start or complete jobs.
- Utilities: Complaints involved service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas services.
- Credit/Debt: Complaints included billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair (you can go here to learn how to find a reputable credit repair company), debt relief services, predatory lending, and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
- Retail Sales: Complaints included false advertising, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, and failure to deliver products.
- Services: Complaints in this category involved misrepresentations, shoddy work, lack of required licenses and failure to perform.
- Landlord/Tenant: Complaints concerned unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, and illegal eviction tactics.
- Household Goods: Complaints involved misrepresentations, failure to deliver, and faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.
- Health Products/Services. Complaints included misleading claims and unlicensed practitioners.
- (Tie) Internet Sales, which involved misrepresentations and failure to deliver online purchases; and Fraud, where complaints involved bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds.
The full report is available on the CFA’s website. It’s worth perusing so you can get an idea about the types of complaints that are piling up, which could help you spot red flags in the future. And, if you think you’ve already fallen victim to fraud and/or your identity was compromised, you can consider a credit freeze, which can prevent new accounts from being opened in your name.
At the very least, it’s a good idea to monitor your credit so you can catch any identity theft that could result. (You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year and viewing your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.) Signs your identity has been compromised include mysterious addresses, unfamiliar accounts and a sudden drop in credit score. You can go here to learn what to do if you fall victim to identity theft.
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- 3 Dumb Things You Can Do With Email
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life