Koster encourages all consumers to file their complaints with his office so that he can investigate scams, mediate complaints when possible, and take legal action when necessary to protect Missouri citizens. Consumers can register complaints by telephone at 800-392-8222, online at www.ago.mo.gov, or by mail at P.O. Box 899, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
Below are the top ten scams reported to the Attorney General’s Office in 2011:
1. NO-CALL COMPLAINTS (22,225 complaints) – On average, consumers file approximately 89 complaints against telemarketers each working day. Koster warns consumers to be wary of giving any financial information over the telephone and to do so only when the consumer initiates the call.
2. DEBT COLLECTORS (1873 complaints) – The Attorney General’s Office experienced an increase in the number of complaints filed against debt collectors in the last year. Many consumers indicate they are being harassed for debts they may not even owe. Others claim the debt collection agencies are abusive, threatening, and include repeated calls when attempting to collect a debt. Koster encourages consumers to be aware of their rights and to file complaints with his office if they believe they are being illegally harassed by debt collectors.
3. TELEPHONE CRAMMING and BILLING (1281 complaints) – “Cramming” is when a consumer receives a charge on his phone bill for services he did not order. Consumers should thoroughly review their telephone bill each month for evidence of cramming, which can include charges as small as $1 or $2. The Attorney General’s Office also received many complaints regarding unauthorized fees from third parties on their telephone bills. Koster advises consumers who notice unwarranted charges to contact their carrier and request that the charge be removed and a refund issued.
4. CREDIT AND DEBIT CARD (1126 complaints) – A fourth major category of complaints by consumers in 2011 was unauthorized charges on credit and debit cards. Scams such as these can occur by telephone, email, or text messaging. The Attorney General recommends that consumers never authorize direct bank account debits or reveal their bank account number over the phone. Federal law grants consumers the right to challenge some unauthorized charges, but the challenge must be made in writing within 60 days of the charge appearing on the consumer’s monthly statement. Koster encourages consumers to provide credit card information only to familiar merchants and only when the consumer initiates the call.