Gripes about debt collection companies again topped the list of consumer complaints reported to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office last year, her office announced Tuesday as part of National Consumer Protection Week.
Coffman’s Consumer Protection Section logged 8,707 complaints and inquiries in 2016. Other top complaints involved utility companies, telephone scams of all sorts and problems with auto dealers.
“Protecting Coloradans from fraudsters, scam artists and criminals that target consumers is a top priority of my office,” Coffman said in a statement.
“Our Consumer Protection Section is here to serve the people, not only through prevention and education efforts, but by reviewing complaints and enforcing the law when consumers have been harmed. I would encourage all consumers to contact us if they think they have been a victim of fraud.”
Consumers who believe they’ve been defrauded or otherwise harmed by a Colorado business or nonprofit organization can file a report online or call 800-222-4444.
Debt collection companies accounted for 977 of the calls last year, including complaints about harassment and disputes over amounts and whether a debt is actually owed.
A common version of the debt-collection scams involve a threatening call from someone impersonating law enforcement or a government agency, often supposedly trying to collect an alleged payday loan debt. Consumers even report receiving fraudulent arrest warrants and facing pressure to send money, the attorney general’s office said in an earlier release about problems with debt collectors.
Complaints about cable, telephone and satellite companies came in next on the list, with 404 calls recorded. Issues included billing disputes, service or coverage problems, rate changes and cancellation or termination disputes.
Fraudulant or unwanted phone calls — including phony IRS tax collection scams, phony tech support scams and phony debt collection scams — accounted for the third-highest level of complaints at 353.
Complaints about automobile dealers came next, with 353. These included misrepresentation about the condition of used cars, trade-in vehicles sold by dealers before financing has been approved, along with warranty, title and advertising issues. Complaints settled by the attorney general last summer in the Volkswagon emissions scandal also fall in this category.
Mortgage lenders landed in fifth place on the list with 319 complaints. Consumers complained about problems with these companies involving everything from loan modification and foreclosure issues to short sales and related problems.
Schools accounted for 181 complaints, coming in sixth on the list. Most of these involved complaints about for-profit colleges, including tuition issues, loan problems and programs or colleges that closed.
Complaints involving email, including unsolicited sweepstakes, phishing attempts and outfits that failed to remove consumers from email lists after they’ve unsubscribed, came in seventh with 117 complaints.
Timeshare resale scams came in just behind email in eighth place with 116 complaints. Most of these involved consumers who want to sell their timeshare interests who fall prey to companies that claim they have buyers but don’t.
Telephone issues came in ninth with 95 complaints, running the gamut from billing disputes, service problems, coverage issues and rate changes to disputes over cancellation and termination terms and fees.
Rounding out the top 10 were publishers, with 93 complaints, nearly all including direct-mail magazine subscriptions where consumers pay for subscriptions they don’t receive or are billed fraudulently for magazine they’re already receiving. A few involved suspicion about deceptive solicitation.
The attorney general’s StopFraudColorado.gov website includes resources for consumers and displays up-to-date, credible information on scams, as well as information on helping victims and making it easy to report fraud.