In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 1.3 million consumer complaints in more than 30 categories. Many consumers cited abusive or exploitive business practices. More than half alleged outright fraud.
See also: Protect yourself from telemarketing fraud.
Just so you know who's out their trying to take you to the cleaners, here are the top 10 ways the FTC says you are most likely to be financially abused, cheated or exploited.
10. Credit cards. Complaints included account and billing issues, unexpected interest rate changes, late fees and overcharges. The only surprise here is that the category is so low on the list. Credit card complaints used to be in the top three in past years. However, the industry may be getting a little help from new congressional legislation limiting credit card companies' ability to impose outrageous fees and interest rates. (You might want to check how your legislators voted on that one before heading to the polls next year.)
9. Telephone and mobile services. Consumer complaints included charges for calls to toll-free numbers, unauthorized switching of services (slamming), and misleading prepaid phone card offers. I think the number of complaints in this category would be much higher, but the FTC doesn't include complaints about outrageous termination fees, which are unfortunately legal.
8. Foreign money offers and counterfeit check scams. The FTC describes this as "letters or emails offering the 'opportunity' to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that a self-proclaimed government official is trying to transfer illegally out of a foreign country in return for money." Our response? There is no money for you in Nigeria!
7. Internet auctions. Reports included nondelivery or late delivery of goods, goods that are less valuable than advertised, and failure to disclose all the relevant information about the product or terms of the sale. You could just call this the eBay or Craigslist scam. Before you click to purchase one of these offers, just remember the AARP member who wrote to us about the $7,000 she wired to get a car that apparently never existed from a seller who's nowhere to be found.