SEATTLE — The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division today released its top 20 consumer complaints for 2015. Telecommunications topped the list for the third year in a row, and “phishing” — duping a victim into revealing confidential information that can be exploited illicitly — jumped to No. 2 in 2015 from No. 10 in 2014.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson also highlighted the division’s work in recovering $4.8 million for Washington consumers through its informal complaint resolution service over the past year.
Of the 17,717 complaints filed, 1,378 were about telecommunications. The number of complaints in this category has been roughly the same for the last three years. Issues range from dropped or incomplete calls to misrepresentations regarding wireless plans and coverage.
More than 750,000 Washington Sprint and Verizon customers were eligible for refunds for unauthorized charges on their cell phone bills as the result of AGO legal action to address complaints.
Complaints regarding phishing shot up more than 2.5x to 1,148 in 2015 from 441 in 2014. Most of these complaints involve fraudsters posing as people they are not. For example, tech support scammers pose as personnel working for well-known software companies such as Microsoft in an attempt to sell unneeded services. While tactics vary, the goal is the same: to gain access to your computer and ultimately your personal information and money.
Ferguson recently sued iYogi, one of the world’s biggest tech support scammers, to stop its deceptive practices and obtain relief for victims.
Consumer Protection Division staff also attribute the phishing spike to the fake Internal Revenue Service scams that continue to sweep the nation. In this increasingly common scheme, fraudsters pose as IRS agents attempting to collect back taxes they claim you owe, in an effort to obtain your private information.
The best place to file a complaint about the IRS deception is with the Federal Trade Commission. You can also fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. More information about this scam and what to do if you’re contacted can be found here.
Have a consumer complaint? Contact the Attorney General’s Office
The AGO Consumer Resource Center helps consumers who believe they are victims of scams or unfair practices by providing a free, voluntary and informal complaint resolution service.
The CRC will contact the business, make it aware of the complaint and applicable state laws and give it a chance to respond. The CRC’s involvement often helps resolve the dispute.
To file a consumer complaint visit www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx. If you have questions about the complaint resolution process, call 1-800-551-4636.
AGO sues bad actors who don’t play by the rules
The AGO monitors complaints for consumer protection violations and may initiate an investigation or pursue legal action at any time, even if the CRC is not able to help resolve the dispute.
The AGO files numerous lawsuits each year and seeks to recover refunds for consumers and imposes penalties and injunctions on offenders to stop and deter illegal practices. For a list of the AGO’s most recent consumer protection legal actions click here.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov