Make us your home page

Fastest-growing consumer complaints show one-two punch: recession, scam

The biggest categories of consumer complaints went virtually unchanged in 2008: automobile sales and repair, home improvement scams and shoddy work, credit and debt collection, bogus retail advertising, promises and gift cards. But the fastest-growing source of complaints are scammers who plague consumers drowning in a down economy, preying on their need for quick cash or credit repair, their unemployment, bad debt or mortgage foreclosure, according to a survey of consumer protection agencies in 19 states.

Fastest-growing sources of complaints

. Aggressive debt collection tactics.

. False promises from firms claiming to repair credit, modify loans, settle debts or forestall foreclosure.

. High-cost payday loans and bogus offers for loans with hefty upfront fees.

. Fraudulent work-at-home business opportunities.

. Lost deposits, unused gift cards or undelivered products or services because of a business closure.

. Tenant problems stemming from foreclosed rentals.

Some new tactics

. Telemarketers who learned to mask their name and phone number on caller ID phones.

. Fraudsters sending text messages pretending to be from your bank.

. Crooks who steal personal info by posing as Medicare investigators claiming benefits will be cut off if paperwork is not corrected.

By the numbers

62 percent

Percentage of consumer agencies logging in more complaints

67 percent

Percentage of government consumer agencies working on a smaller budget this year

Word to the wise

"People in foreclosure do whatever they can to stay in their homes but as a last resort part with their last $1,000 on these mortgage repair firms that contact them even though many nonprofits offer the same help for free. People are being tricked out of their homes by these companies here, right now, every day."

Deborah Berry, investigator for the Pinellas County Department of Justice and Consumer Services


. Can't pay bills? Get advice from a nonprofit credit counseling service or an accountant or lawyer. Learn what debt collectors can and can't do. Get written releases from claims in debt settlements.

. Information and free HUD-approved counseling services on foreclosure can be found at and requested from the Pinellas County Department of Justice and Consumer Services at (727) 464-6200.

. For restructuring debt, contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling for referrals on free or minimal fee advice at toll-free 1-800-388-2227 or

. If a lender balks at mortgage loan modification, call Hope Now Alliance toll-free at 1-888-995-4673. If you think foreclosure looms, contact Florida Lawyers Saving Homes toll-free at 1-866-607-2187 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for referral to lawyers working on donated time.

Source: Survey compiled by Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Consumer Protection Administrators and North American Consumer Protection Investigators

Fastest-growing consumer complaints show one-two punch: recession, scam 07/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 9:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself


    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    Artist rendering of phase two of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space and a gas station, among other things.
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
  2. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    A Florida Highway Patrol Academy class in the late 1980s. Typically, graduating classes had about 80 recruits. But the most recent class has less than half that as the agency continues to struggle to fill vacancies. [

Florida: Highway Patrol]
  3. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze


    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in


    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump


    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)