Complaint stats tell the story

Consumers have found their voice.  And last year they raised it more than 1.3 million times to complain about identity theft, fraud, and products that didn’t live up to the advertising hype.

The FTC’s report on the top consumer complaints received by the agency in 2010 paints a compelling picture.  If you’re the type who can recalculate a pitcher’s ERA between the swing of the bat and when the hitter reaches first, the data-rich text is a must-read.

The report breaks down the stats by the kind of complaint lodged.  Identity theft accounted for 250,654 — or 19% of the complaints received by the FTC.  Debt collection racked up 144,159 — or 11%.  Sharing the dubious bronze with 5% each were Internet services and Prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries.  The numbers were also crunched by state and metro area.  (Flip through the report to see how your locale fared.)

Why should companies care?  Because nothing closes a prospective customer’s wallet quicker than a bad experience with a business.  And many of those 1.3 million complaints represent a missed opportunity to win a consumer's loyalty.

It’s not a coincidence that the FTC issued the report during National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW).  During this annual celebration of consumer empowerment, consider letting your customers know what you’re doing to keep them informed and protected.  Building on yesterday’s list, here are more ideas about incorporating NCPW into your business:

5)         ID theft remains a top consumer concern and effective data protection is a team effort.  Tell clients what you’re doing to safeguard their personal information.  Offer tips in your client newsletter or on your website about steps they can take to reduce their risk.

6)         Designate NCPW as the time for your annual sit-down with staff and contractors about maintaining the security of employee and customer information.  Too busy to craft your message from scratch?  Not to worry.  The FTC has free resources — so be a sport and spring for the donuts.

7)         This year's list contains a lot of the usual not-so-golden oldies, but there’s a new fraud at the forefront:  imposter scams.  Con artists claim to be calling from the IRS, FBI, Customs, or FTC.  They might use a real government employee's name and call from a Washington, D.C., phone number.  Or they say they’re a friend or relative — or someone calling on their behalf because they're in the emergency room or stranded abroad and need immediate cash.  In reality, it’s a scammer who sleuthed out a familiar name or hacked an email account.  Do your customers a favor and print out some copies of the FTC’s new alert, Spotting an Impostor: Scammers Pose as Friends, Family and Government Agencies.  Put a stack by the cash register or use the link on the right to email it.  Your customers will appreciate the effort.

3 Comments

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Is it OK for Heritage Debt Relief company to collect every month from you Bank account and is not helping in any way to help us pay our debts at a lower rate, they charged us over $8,000.00 and we are still paying. IS THIS LEGAL?

Mr. & Mrs. Muñoz:
Thanks for your comment. A new law which took effect October 27, 2010 made it illegal for businesses that market debt relief services by phone to charge any fees before settling or reducing a customer’s debt. This covers businesses that call customers to sell debt relief services or receive calls from customers in response to ads or other marketing solicitations. If your dealings with the company began on or after October 27, 2010, they are required to comply with this law. You may want to contact the company in writing to dispute the charges. You also have the right to file a complaint with the FTC.

To learn about options for managing your debt—including dealing with your creditors directly, contacting a credit counselor, and considering bankruptcy—and what to watch out for from companies that promise to settle your debt, read
Settling Your Credit Card Debts.

In Australia we suffer from the very same problems but with a lesser voracity. It is so important in business to create and use your identity/brand so your customers know it's your legitimate message they're receiving. Cheers Kurt Johansen

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