Scams and financial report grievances rocketed up during the pandemic, and this National Consumer Protection Week, experts reviewed the most common issues as well as what to do about them.
In Colorado, consumers filed 24% more complaints and inquiries with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division than they did in 2019, making for a record-breaking 12,130 filings in 2020.
The number one complaint was with airline companies, in particular Frontier Airlines, for issues like not properly reimbursing canceled flights.
The top 10 types of complaints and inquiries received in 2020 by the Consumer Protection Division in the Attorney General’s Office. (Graphic by Samantha Ye | Journal-Advocate)
In addition to complaints about robocalls and lending issues, the AG’s office also saw scams relating to fake medical treatments and price gouging related to the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, there are more fears out there, and there is more ground to prey on people’s fears,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser during a public Zoom forum.
More and more of those scams are happening online and targeting all age groups, according to the Better Business Bureau. Online scams yielded the highest financial losses in 2020.
Weiser encouraged people who encounter any unscrupulous behavior to contact Stop Fraud Colorado at 800-222-4444 or www.StopFraudColorado.gov.
The higher fraud numbers align with what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found at the national level. They received 444,551 complaints in 2020, over 50% more than the already high numbers in 2019.
Over half those complaints were grievances against the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — revealing “what a headache this industry causes for Americans,” according to a report by the CoPIRG foundation.
Three of the top ten complaints from Colorado consumers had to do with credit reporting and credit repair services, with the prime complaint by far being incorrect information on a credit report.
Freezing your credit at the Big 3 credit companies is free and highly recommended to protect your finances, according to Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG.
With tax season coming up, March and April are also common times for identity theft to show up.
“We encourage people to file their taxes earlier rather than later, so that you can get ahead of any potential criminal who tries to use your information to get your tax refunds to themselves,” Katz said.
In daily life, consumers can take the following actions to protect themselves:
- Be vigilant. Assume every unknown and unsolicited interaction in-person or online is a potential scammer.
- Do not engage. If you do engage, don’t give away any personal information.
- Put a credit freeze on your information. That will prevent criminals from using your information to open up new lines of credit, leaving you to pick up the pieces later.