Internet and housing issues among the top 10 consumer complaints received by NY AG in 2021

NEW YORK (WKBW) – The New York Attorney General, Leticia James, has released a list of the 10 most important consumer complaints the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) received in 2021.

Most of the complaints received were related to internet issues and landlord/tenant disputes ranked second on the list.

You can find the full list below:

1. Internet Internet related (internet services and service providers, data privacy and security, digital media, data breaches, fraud through Internet manipulation). 8346
2. Owner/tenant Landlord/tenant disputes (security deposit issues, tenant harassment). 3144
3. Retail sales Retail (price gouging, defective merchandise, poor customer service, pet stores, and fanciers). 2678
4. Services Consumer related services (COVID-19 testing facilities, alarm companies, dry cleaners, restaurants, movers, services for personal home use). 2610
5. Car Automotive (sales, service, financing, repairs) 2283
6. Credit Credit (debt collection, credit card billing, debt settlement and debt relief, payday loans, credit repair, credit reporting agencies, identity theft) 1539
7. Utilities Utilities (wireless and residential telephones, energy service providers and suppliers, cable, and satellite) 1145
8. Home Repair / Improvement Home repair/improvement (repair problems, scam contractors) 1034
9. Health clubs Health clubs (inability to cancel membership, inability to access facilities, refunds not available, no response from clubs) 778
10. Furniture/Appliances Furniture/appliances (defective merchandise, delivery issues, service and repair issues). 611

Let this list serve as a warning to all New Yorkers to keep their eye out for scam artists. From inaccurate delivery times for COVID-19 test results to fraudulent debt collectors, scammers have taken advantage of these difficult times to mislead and deceive New Yorkers. My office is committed to rooting out scammers and protecting all New Yorkers, young and old, from harm. Consumers have been valued in assisting my office in identifying and eliminating fraud, and I urge them to remain vigilant and follow these tips.

– AJ James

AG James has provided the tips below to protect you from future scams:

Internet

  • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts. Cybercriminals use passwords stolen from a company for other online accounts. Earlier this year, Attorney General James announced that a comprehensive investigation by her office had identified more than 1.1 million online accounts that were compromised in credential-cracking cyber attacks on just 17 well-known companies. [lnks.gd]. New Yorkers can protect themselves with the following safeguards:
  • Never reuse passwords. Although reusing login information may be convenient, it also puts consumers at risk. A password manager on a phone or computer can keep track of your passwords, and automatically fill them in when you log into a website or app.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Two-factor authentication (2FA) can provide an extra layer of security by requiring anyone logged into an account to provide other credentials, such as a one-time code sent via an SMS or email.
  • Check your online accounts regularly for unauthorized transactions and immediately contact your online service (or credit card company, if appropriate) if you see something suspicious.
  • Sign up for a hack notification service, such as Have I Been Pwned [lnks.gd]a notification will be sent if an account associated with your email or phone number has been hacked.

Owner and tenant

  • The landlord must return your security deposit within 14 days of your departure. If the property owner takes any money from the escrow deposit to compensate for the damages, they must provide a detailed receipt describing the damage and its cost. If the landlord does not give you this receipt within 14 days of your departure, they must return the full security deposit, whether or not there was damage. If the landlord fails to comply, you may be entitled to up to twice the security deposit.
  • If you are having trouble paying rent, please contact your local social services department. To find offices across the state, check out https://otda.ny.gov/workingfamilies/dss.asp [lnks.gd]. New York City residents can call 311 and inquire about rental assistance programs. More resources are available here: https://ag.ny.gov/coronavirus/tenants-rights#pay-rent [lnks.gd]

Retail

  • If you see unreasonably excessive prices for home COVID-19 test kits or other goods vital and essential to health, safety and well-being, you are encouraged to notify my office immediately.
  • Free COVID-19 test kits are available from the US Government at www.covidtests.gov [lnks.gd].

Consumer related services

car

  • Beware of deceptive selling tactics when buying or renting a car. Prices of new and used cars continue to rise, due to factors such as high demand and a global semiconductor shortage, which are two critical components of new cars. Never sign any documents or leave the dealership with a car until you have carefully reviewed all of your paperwork. Do not sign a blank document that does not have numbers or terms filled in.
  • Make sure what you sign matches what the salesperson told you and that you don’t incur charges for any additional accessories or products you didn’t order, such as warranties, tire and wheel protection, and VIN. Ask the salesperson or financial manager about any fees or charges that you don’t understand and whether they are required by law.

credit

  • If you have a debt under collection, debt collectors must provide you with basic information about the origin and history of your debt within five days of your first contact. You also have the right to object to the debt, and once you do, the collector must hold off all attempts to collect from you until they provide information to support their debt claim.
  • Debt collectors cannot harass you, and they must follow restrictions on how and how often they can contact you. For example, they can’t call you more than seven times in any seven day period and they can’t call you between 8 PM and 9 AM. You have the right to tell debt collectors not to contact you by email, text message, or any other means of communication, and you can tell them not to contact you at all.
  • As of April 7, 2022, creditors cannot sue or threaten to sue you for debts older than three years. Before April 7, creditors cannot sue you, or threaten to sue you, for debts older than six years, or even less, depending on where the original company is located or the person you owe the debt to.

Services

Home Repair / Improvement

  • Many of our homes have suffered wear and tear due to the pandemic. Before entering into a contract, shop for estimates, check with the Better Business Bureau, suppliers, and neighbors for references.
  • Know your rights: You have three days after you sign the home improvement contract to cancel it.

health clubs

Furniture / Appliances

  • Always know the furniture or appliances return policy before purchasing. Some online retailers require customers to pay for return shipping which can make returning bulky furniture or appliances prohibitively expensive.