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Top 10 frauds of 2016: Beware of scammers

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Posted at 10:08 AM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 10:17:05-05

From the internet and retail to cars and utilities, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office released a list of the top 10 frauds of last year.

For the eleventh year in a row, internet scams have dominated the list with a total of 4,605 complaints

As National Consumer Protection Week begins, here's what to look out for and some tips to protect against them:

  1. Internet (4,605 complaints): Click here for a list of questions to ask when choosing an internet plan and to test if you are getting the Internet speeds you were promised. If you are not getting what you are paying for, call your Internet service provider.
  2. Automobile (3,437 complaints): The New York New and Used Car Lemon Laws provides legal remedies for buyers and lessee of new and used cars that turn out to be lemons. You may be entitled to a full refund if your car does not the terms of the written warranty and the manufacturer, or the the authorized dealer is not able to fix the car after a reasonable number of attempts. To file a new or used car "lemon law" complaint, click here and here.
  3. Consumer-Related Services (2,444 complaints): Make sure to always get a written contract from anyone providing a service, from snow-removal to home repair to party planning.
  4. Landlord/Tenant Disputes (2,005 complaints): To make a complaint about landlord harassment, especially the use of construction as a means of harassment, complete and submit a Tenant Rights Complaint Form or call 1-800-771-7755.
  5. Utilities (1,730 complaints): Remember to carefully read and understand all terms before signing a utility or wireless and residential phone service contract. Learn more here.
  6. Credit (1,606 complaints): Debt collectors can be the most common type of credit fraud, and consumers have rights. If you have credit problems, contact a credit card counseling agency licensed by the New York State Department of Financial Services for assistance in managing and to avoid collection scams. Learn more here.
  7. Retail Sales (1,214 complaints): Check return and refund policies. Merchants are required by law to post these policies and must give consumers 30 days to get a refund if they do not. Be sure to know the terms of "final sales" and "cash-only final sales." Learn more here.
  8. Home Repair/Construction (1,069 complaints): Shop around for estimates before entering into a contract. Check with the Better Business Bureau, banks and friends for references. You also have three days after signing a home improvement contract to cancel it. Learn more here.
  9. Mortgage (921 complaints): Beware of scams that claim to stop or delay foreclosure payments for an upfront fee or make payments on your behalf. Look out for companies who claim to be affiliated with the government or work with attorneys but do not provide legal services. For a list of trusted partners dedicated to providing homeowners with free, qualified mortgage assistance releif funded by the Attorney General's Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), visit agscamhelp.com or call 1-855-HOME-456.
  10. Mail Order (715 complaints): Make sure the company has an operating customer service line and lists a real street address. Learn more here.

Other scams to watch out for:

IRS Scams: These are common scams that target consumers by phone. The IRS scam demands payment for unpaid taxes and threatens consumers with arrest. The IRS will never contact a person by phone and demand this payment.

Grandparent scam: A grandparent may be contacted by someone claiming to be a grandchild who is traveling and in urgent need of money to make bail, pay a fine or pay for a car repair. The scammer then begs their "grandparents" not to tell their "parents." Some are asked to go to retail stores and buy gift cards, then provide the information on the card over the phone.

Student debt: Be careful of fake student debt relief companies. They claim to reduce or eliminate student debt for an upfront fee. Contact your loan servicer to see if any relief is available.

Health Care Fraud: Health care frauds include incorrect medical billing, wrongful rejection of health insurance claims and health plan's failure to properly process insurance claims.

If you come across a scam, report it at ag.ny.gov or call 1-800-771-7755.