What was the biggest complaint from Illinois consumers in 2009? According to state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, her constituents were most upset about rising foreclosures and debt.
Madigan says that 31,264 consumers filed complaints with her Consumer Protection Division last year. The consumer debt category topped the complaints filed by Illinois consumers, including a 65 percent increase in residential mortgage-related complaints.
In addition, an estimated 21,000 consumers have called the Attorney General's Homeowner Helpline for assistance since 2008, while the Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Bureau helped secure an estimated $23 million in mortgage-related savings, including loan modifications for at-risk borrowers, last year.
"These numbers demonstrate how this economic crisis is hitting home for tens of thousands of Illinois families," Madigan said. "Hardworking people are struggling to make their mortgage payments on time. They're fighting to cope with mounting debts, and they're being targeted by con artists looking to make a quick buck. This is a challenging time, and I urge anyone who is struggling to make ends meet to contact my office to make sure that they do not become victims of fraud."
Consumer Debt Complaints Rank First
Since 2008, complaints to Madigan's office about consumer debt grew nearly 16.5 percent, a reflection of the increasingly dire financial constraints people in Illinois are experiencing during the economic downturn. Complaints in this top category cover a wide range of consumer debt issues, such as residential mortgages, credit card debt, and installment loan debt.
Specifically, the highest reported debt-related complaints involved mortgage foreclosure. In 2009, nearly 4,000 homeowners filed residential mortgage complaints with Madigan's office, a 65 percent increase over the previous year. In addition to the significant increase, the types of complaints reported are also transforming.
In the first wave of the foreclosure, a majority of complaints reported to the Attorney General's office came from homeowners who were placed in risky home loans that they could never afford. As the foreclosure crisis continued, Madigan said that around 2008 her office began receiving more calls from homeowners who have lost their jobs and can no longer make their mortgage payments. Other debt-related complaints includes problems with collection agencies and credit card companies.
Identity Theft Complaints Rank Second
After calls to Madigan's office about consumer debt, identity theft remained high on the annual list of consumer complaints, coming in at the second most-reported issue. Madigan's office received 4,376 identity theft-related complaints in 2009. A significant number of the complaints involved people taking over victims' credit card and bank accounts.
Rounding out the top ten, consumers complained about home improvement fraud, problems with their wireless or phone company, phony sweepstakes scams, auto sales fraud, mail or Internet purchase snafus, fraud directed at small business, complaints about utility services and motor vehicle repair problems.