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Schneiderman: $13.5 million-plus recovered for individuals through consumer assistance program since 2011


Mon, Mar 2nd 2015 10:35 am

New report highlights consumer frauds and Internet bureaus helping more than 17,000 individuals resolve complaints

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that, since January 2011, his office has helped more than 17,000 people successfully resolve their consumer complaints. This includes recovering over $13.5 million in refunds and other relief for 12,000-plus consumers through his agency's consumer assistance program. These figures were released as part of a new report - "Fighting Fraud in New York: One Consumer at a Time" - that highlights the office's efforts to recover funds for individual consumers.

The report, released to coincide with national Consumer Protection Week, also indicates the program has resulted in an average per-complaint recovery of $1,107. This is in addition to the litigation and other enforcement actions that have resulted in a record of more than $1.8 billion in consumer relief obtained by the consumer frauds bureau since 2011. 

"Every year, my office receives thousands of complaints from consumers across New York state and the country who believe they have been scammed or defrauded, and we take every complaint seriously," Schneiderman said. "As today's report shows, my office has obtained over $13.5 million in in refunds and other relief for over 17,000 consumers since 2011. I would encourage any New Yorker who believes they have been scammed to file a complaint with my office and to see how we can help."

The report indicates Schneiderman's office receives thousands of consumer complaints each year from every corner of the state. Complaints, spanning a range of industries and categories, have varied from seniors being scammed on loan modification services to threatening and illegal debt collection practices.

This year, the areas that have generated the most emails, calls and letters to the office include:

  • Automobile industry: 2,986
  • Credit and identity theft: 2,224
  • Service industries: 2,146
  • Utilities: 1,778
  • Landlord/tenant: 1,721

While consumer complaints have been received from every part of the state, the top five regions for consumer recoveries are:

  • New York City: $3.57 million
  • Hudson Valley: $2.56 million
  • Western New York: $1.86 million
  • Long Island: $1.38 million
  • Capital Region: $1.32 million

The AG said the Internet has fundamentally changed how consumers do business, providing them with a level of convenience and access once unimaginable. However, the Internet also has made it easier for scammers to gain an upper hand. With 5,524 submissions in 2014, the attorney general's Internet bureau saw a 21 percent uptick in consumer tips and complaints from 2013, many of which were related to scams.

The office has issued two recent consumer alerts around trending Internet scams. One is a fake court appearance and debt collection notice scam where scammers issue realistic-looking notices to appear in court or attempt to collect on a bogus debt - sometimes even claiming to be from the New York attorney general's office. This scam has involved phony emails, phone calls and letters sent through traditional mail. A second is a fake tech support scam where fraudsters email or call unsuspecting consumers, posing as technical support, claiming they've identified malware or viruses running on one's personal computer. These scammers are attempting to gain access and control of users' computers.

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