What were the biggest consumer stories of 2022? The holiday meltdown by Southwest Airlines was a huge event but happened too late in the year to make a full impact on ConsumerAffairs readers.
When we looked back at the stories that drew the most attention from readers this year we found the most interest in scams and class-action settlements that doled out millions of dollars in cash.
Our story in March reporting that “The ‘Zelle scam’ is spreading quickly across the U.S.,” was number one with readers. We continued to report on different variations of the scheme throughout the year and it will no doubt be a topic for stories in 2023.
Criminals love the peer-to-peer payment app because the money can’t be traced and it's a little less obvious than asking for payment with Target gift cards.
In October, when we asked “Are you a T-Mobile, Subaru, AT&T, Chrysler, DirecTV, GEICO, Avis customer? They may have some money for you,” readers responded with an overwhelming “yes.” It was the number two story for the year.
Some of the settlements were huge but the payments to individual consumers won’t be. We reported that 76 million T-Mobile customers whose personal data was exposed last year will get part of a $350 million settlement.
A lot of interest in tax matters
The third and fourth-place stories covered taxes. Readers showed a lot of interest when we reported “IRS wants taxpayers to get ready for changes and has built a new tool chest to help out.” The tax agency has built out a new set of tools that it says can not only make tax returns easier but can also help taxpayers approach the upcoming tax season with a newfound tax prep swagger.
“IRS boosts standard deduction for 2023 tax year to account for inflation” drew the fourth-most attention in 2022. Single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately will see a $900 increase, with their standard deduction rising to $13,850 for 2023. For heads of households, the standard deduction will be $20,800 for the tax year 2023, up $1,400 from the amount for the tax year 2022.
Another class action settlement story came in at number five in 2022. In early December we reported “Consumers will share in Experian’s $22.5 million class action settlement.” It turns out the credit agency sent false information about consumers to third parties.
The sixth and seventh most-read articles warned readers about scams. In August, when we asked “Find an unordered package on your doorstep? You might be a victim of a 'brushing' scam,” it was probably the first many had heard about this new scheme.
Number seven on the list was the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) top 10 scams of the year. Demonstrating how criminals have shifted gears from just a decade or two ago, identity theft was number one and imposter scams came in second.
“There’s a pile of money waiting for consumers as part of class action settlements regarding baby formula and margaritas,” we wrote in November. It was the eighth most-popular story of the year.
Growing crime was a major consumer story of 2022 as shoplifting cost both Walmart and Target hundreds of millions of dollars, costs both said will ultimately be passed on to consumers. When we reported in July that “Starbucks responds to rising crime by closing 16 stores,” readers made it the number nine story of the year.
Rounding out the top 10 is, “Social Security Administration changes full retirement age to 67,” a story we published in February. The action is estimated to affect about 70 million Americans and is the biggest change since 1982, when recipients saw a 7.4% increase in benefits.