DES MOINES, IOWA (March 21, 2023) — Attorney General Brenna Bird has released the top consumer complaints received by the Attorney General’s office in 2022. Last year, the Iowa Attorney General’s office received over 4,000 consumer complaints across more than thirty different industries.
“We’re protecting consumers and holding scammers accountable,” said AG Bird. “We see cases all too often where scammers convince people to give up their personal information or large sums of money by taking advantage of people’s emotions. Our office will keep fighting to protect Iowans from these terrible crimes by working with fraud victims and raising awareness on how to recognize a scam or fraudulent business. Our goal is to stop the scam.”
The Consumer Protection Division protects Iowan consumers from becoming fraud victims, ensures fair competition in the marketplace, and informs the public about consumer fraud.
Top 10 Consumer Complaints in 2022, by industry:
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 532 automotive-related consumer complaints, involving misrepresentations in the sale of new or used cars and disputes over automobile warranty details as well as faulty repair and servicing issues. Signs you may be getting scammed include a seller’s reluctance to produce the vehicle’s history or sudden and surprise recommendations for complicated car repairs.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 447 health-care-related consumer complaints. Complaints involve disagreements over health-insurance payments, billing related to hospital and doctor visits, and consumer dissatisfaction with supplemental purchases. Health fraud is also common and can be prevented by always consulting with health-care professionals and by watching out for medications that promise a “quick fix” and claims of “risk-free” money-back guarantees.
3. Home Improvement
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 359 home improvement-related consumer complaints. Complaints include the failure of contractors to finish or complete jobs and poor workmanship quality. Look out for contractors who ask for money up front. To better protect from fraud, it’s also good practice to request an estimate of the expected work and get a contract with terms and conditions signed in writing.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 341 imposter scam-related consumer complaints. Common scams include fake job offers, online shopping scams, lottery scams, romance scams, and IRS/social security scams. Consumers can avoid scams by doing business only with established sellers, being wary of unsolicited texts and calls, and by avoiding wiring money electronically to people you have not previously met.
5. Personal Services
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 326 personal services-related consumer complaints. Complaints involve dissatisfaction with timeshare companies and other travel-related experiences. Timeshare grievances include companies charging undisclosed fees and increasing fees for maintenance and other services. Complaints also allege companies did not resell timeshares after previously agreeing to do so and that companies did not provide property deeds after consumers purchased their timeshares. The top travel complaints involve airline-flight delays or cancellations and the misrepresentation of costs. Also common is the sale of exercise-club memberships that promise discounts and other amenities but later turn out to be much less valuable than consumers initially expected.
6. Personal Goods
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 258 personal goods-related consumer complaints. Complaints focus on food purchases, clothing, and accessory purchases as well as the validity of gift cards. Consumers report businesses price-gouging certain food products, notably in the aftermath of natural disasters. Consumers also filed complaints of false advertising for clothing products, failure to deliver merchandise, and issues with gift-card activation and use.
7. Home Goods and Services
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 252 home goods- and services-related consumer complaints. Complaints involve issues related to appliances, furnishings, and electronics. Consumers reported misleading or false advertising, late delivery times, faulty appliances, and companies refusing product replacement for furniture and other major appliances. Solar-panel installation is also a highly-reported issue among consumers. Complaints related to solar include delayed or improper installation, shoddy solar panels, and property damage caused by installation. To avoid similar issues, consumers should avoid large down-payments and be sure to conduct thorough research on a company before doing business.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 170 media-related consumer complaints. Complaints involve satellite and cable television, bundled media services, and magazines. Consumers report problems with promotional offers, billing, contracts, cancellations, signal quality, and general service. If doing business with a third party, consumers should know where the business is located, how to contact the provider, and get any agreements in writing. Other issues can be avoided by knowing exactly what a provider is offering and charging. By reading the monthly bill, consumers may also avoid overcharge fees for services they did or did not request; and if canceling, read the terms and conditions agreement for information on early termination fees.
9. Housing and Realty
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 156 housing- and realty-related consumer complaints. Complaints involve rental housing, real estate sales, manufactured/mobile homes, and home building. Consumers often report false or misleading information on what to expect and hidden extra charges. Complaints involving mortgages are also common with consumers citing inflated appraisals, foreclosure scams, and the use of a false identity for loan applications. To avoid similar issues, consumers should analyze property valuations, receive referrals from trusted professionals or family, and review all loan documents to ensure personal and financial information is accurate.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office received 226 miscellaneous consumer complaints. Common complaints reported by consumers include a variety of problems including, but not limited to, employment, home-safety devices, and personal disputes.
If you spot a scam, contact (515)281-5926 or file a complaint here.