In New York, it's the Internet. In Michigan, it's credit and financial concerns. In Florida, it's builders and contractors and in Illinois, it's identity theft that tops the list.
We're talking, of course, about the Top Ten consumer concerns. This is National Consumer Protection Week, traditionally the time when agencies issue their most-wanted lists.
The Federal Trade Commission jumped the gun, naming its pick -- identity theft -- in January. Our pick was Congress, but that's another story.
New York's take-no-prisoners Eliot Spitzer named Internet problems as the top statewide consumer complaint, the first time it's topped his list. According to an analysis of more than 51,000 written consumer complaints in 2005, credit and banking complaints were second followed by automobile issues.
"The Internet has become the new Main Street of our society," Spitzer said. "It has brought great benefits, but also new opportunities for the unscrupulous."
Typical Internet-related complaints involve: the non-delivery of goods; incorrect charges for shipped goods; auctions; spyware; and spam.
In 2005, Spizer's office won nearly $37 million in restitution through settlements, court judgments and mediation of consumer-oriented cases. An additional $11.5 million was recovered by consumers through the New and Used Car Lemon Law Arbitration Programs administered by the Attorney General's office. The office also collected nearly $4.2 million in civil penalties and costs.
In addition to written complaints and inquiries, Cox's Consumer Protection Division fielded more than 111,000 consumer calls in 2005.
Financial complaints included disputes about credit reports, collections, billing and finance charges, misrepresenting the terms of credit, predatory lending, and identity theft complaints.
In 2005, Michigan's Consumer Protection Division obtained more than $4.5 million in consumer refunds and debts forgiven. Additionally, more than $5.8 million was recovered for the state.
In addition to releasing the list of top complaints, Crists office cautioned consumers to be aware of scams that have become more common in the past year.
Last July, the Attorney Generals Office launched a new consumer protection tool, designed to keep provide consumers with immediate updates on fraud protection measures. Through the new Consumer Alerts service, citizens can now subscribe to an electronic notification network and receive fraud warnings directly as they are announced.
Citizens may subscribe to Consumer Alerts by visiting the Attorney General's website at myfloridalegal.com and clicking on the red "Subscribe to the Attorney General's Electronic Newsletter and Consumer Updates" link at the top of the page.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an identity theft hotline staffed by advocates trained to assist consumers struggling with the devastating after-effects of identity theft.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data shows that more than 11,000 Illinoisans were victimized by identity theft in 2005.
Madigan said the new hotline is the first of its kind in the nation, offering a dedicated toll-free number staffed by advocates specially trained to help victims repair their credit, dispute fraudulent debts and prevent future victimization.
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