CHICAGO (WLS) --This is National Consumer Protection Week, and Illinois' attorney general is kicking it off with the top 10 complaints that came to her office last year.
"Call first for advice." It's the message from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and other consumer advocates. If not, you may be ripped off.
On Monday, they revealed a list of successful scams and a warning to be vigilant.
While consumer debt has topped the Illinois attorney general's list of complaints since 2008, identity theft - at number 2 on the list - has been in the top ten even longer. The AG's office has manned an identity theft hotline since 2006 to help consumers
"Every year we have hundreds if not thousands of people who reach out to us. If you want to know how to better protect yourself, we are here to help you through the process of cleaning up your credit," Madigan said.
Partnering with the AG's office against consumer fraud is the U.S. postal inspector. Last month, that office helped catch a romance scammer they say stole the identity of a U.S. soldier
Authorities say a Nigerian con artist, Olynke Sunmola, used the soldier's identity to gain the confidence of companies and women in another $2 million scam.
"Romance scams cause extreme harm with emotional and psychological damage to the victims without the criminal physically ever laying a hand on them," said E.C. Woodson, United States Postal Service. "Criminals are hunting through chat rooms, dating sites and social networking sites for victims who yearn to be sincerely loved and cared for."
Sunmola was caught, extradited to the U.S. and pleaded guilty to fraud charges by the U.S. attorney of southern Illinois.
"Most times, these criminals, they bank on being across the borders of the U.S. They hope that their anonymity through the internet or the mail will keep them from getting caught," Woodson said.
Last month, the Nigerian citizen was sentenced to 27 years in prison and will pay $1.7 million in restitution. Postal inspectors offered a simple rule as advice.
"Trust your instincts and don't ignore the red flags. Are you wondering if this person is too good to be true?" Woodson said.
Consumer experts say if your instincts tell you something seems wrong, it probably is.
Complete Top 10 List
1. Consumer Debt (mortgages, collection agencies, banks)
2. Identity Theft (government document fraud, credit cards, utilities, data breaches)
3. Promotions/Schemes (phone scams, investment schemes, lottery scams, phishing)
4. Construction/Home Improvement (remodeling, roofs and gutters, heating and cooling, plumbing)
5. Telecommunications (telemarketing, cable and satellite TV, phone service and repairs, cell phones)
6. Education (for-profit schools, student loan debt, loan counseling)
7. Used Auto Sales/Motor Vehicles (as-is used cars, financing, warranties)
8. Internet/Mail Order Products (Internet and catalog purchases, TV and radio advertising)
9. Motor Vehicle/Non-Warranty Repair (collision, engines, oil changes and tune-ups)
10. New Auto Sales/Motor Vehicles (financing, defects, advertising)
Consumer Fraud Hotlines:
1-800-386-5438 (Chicago), 1-800-243-0618 (Springfield) or 1-800-243-0607 (Carbondale)
Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission - lawyer complaints
The Client Protection Program of the ARDC provides reimbursement to clients who have lost money or property because of dishonest conduct by lawyers admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois.
Chicago phone number: (312)-565-2600
Springfield phone number: (217)-546-3523
Better Business Bureau
Central Illinois Phone number: (309)-688-3741
Chicago & Northern Illinois Phone number: (312)-832-0500
Business Affairs Consumer Protection
For general consumer complaint, consumer fraud, cab feedback, cable television complaint, complaint about retail store, etc.
Phone number: (312)-744-6060
Chicago Consumer Services Department
Phone number: (312)-746-4200
Cook County State's Attorney's Office
For any crime related issues such as auto theft, gang crimes, government and financial crimes, consumer fraud, etc. They help file civil and criminal lawsuits to protect individuals and the general public interest.
Chicago Phone number: (312)-325-9200
Other office numbers can be found on their website
Illinois Attorney General Office
Phone number: (217)-782-1090
Illinois Commerce Commission
For complaints with regulated utilities and other entities
Phone number: (800)-524-0795, (217)-782-2024 outside the State of Illinois
Illinois Department Financial Professional Regulation -
For any complaints regarding banks and financial institutions, real estate businesses and professionals, and various licensed professions such as doctors, hair salons, nail salons, etc.
Phone number: (888)-473-4858
Illinois Department of Labor -
For any complaints regarding workers' rights, wages, welfare, working conditions, safety and health.
Chicago phone number: (312)-793-2800
Springfield phone number: (217)-782-6206
Marion phone number: (618)-993-7090
Indiana Attorney General Office
Phone number: (317)-2326201
Metropolitan Tenants Organization
For tenant and landlord complaints
Phone number: (773)-292-4980
Free and low-cost legal services