AG warns about top scams- ID theft, debt collection

March 10, 2011 2:51:50 PM PST
If it's too good to be true, it probably is, says Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

On Thursday the Federal Trade Commission released its list of the top consumer complaints, which includes ID theft and debt collection. Both have been at the top of the scam list for 11 years.

Scammers continue to prey on the tough economic situation, according to Madigan. Brian Kim of Gurnee turned to a job search company only to find it was not legit.

"Before you pursue a career or anything, do your homework or research and exhaust all the resources before the company is legitimate," said Kim. Kim got his money back.

"They had 7,025 nationally about consumer fraud issues representing something like $1.7 billion in losses. 48,000 of the complaints were from consumers in Illinois," said Steve Baker, Federal Trade Commission in Chicago.

Madigan said that the top complaints involved consumer debt as the job loss and home foreclosures continue to take a toll on Illinois consumers. Madigan filed a lawsuit against a national legal firm that has unlawfully charged upfront fees to consumers.

"Here in Illinois if somebody claims they can settle the debt significant significantly and charge you an upfront free, that is a red flag," Madigan said. "What the debt settlement operators are trying to do is evade the law by having lawyers seemingly be the ones to help you."

Diane Phillips fell victim to a company offering to clear her debt.

"They indicated they would help us, but the reality is they did none of that. They just did lip service and took our money," said Philips. Madigan says consumer debt complaints rank first in 2010 and most of them involve residential mortgages, credit card debt and the availability of short-term high-interest loans

"People don't have money to lose in these tough economic times and we strongly encourage you to please get the help and services you need before you get scammed," Madigan said.

Madigan encourages consumers to fight back against fraudulent companies and scammers.