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The 10 most common ways Utahns got ripped off in 2012

Published March 6, 2013 7:48 am

Complaints • 'Last dollar' coaching scams ranked highest.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Deceptive business coaching services, difficulty getting refunds and problems with retailers top the list of complaints consumers filed with the Utah Department of Consumer Protection last year.

Utahns registered 2,408 consumer complaints during fiscal year 2011-2012. The annual accounting marks the beginning of the 15th annual National Consumer Protection Week, according to Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.

"Consumers of all ages remain the prime target for fraudsters who seek new ways to profit by deception," Giani said in a statement. "Our division hopes that by sharing this list, Utahns will be aware of the scams circling our state and be able to protect their families against fraud."

Here are Utah's top 10 consumer complaints of 2012:

1. Coaching services • You've probably seen the "work from home" fliers promising six-figure salaries. Many of these coaching services charge exorbitant fees (up to $30,000) and engage in high-pressure sales tactics without delivering on promises. Coaching services, also known as "last dollar scams" (because they prey on those with bad credit or those on the verge of bankruptcy) made up 26 percent of the registered complaints, said Traci Gundersen, director of the Division of Consumer Protection.

2. Deposits/refunds • Consumers complained when a company refused to issue a refund or took a deposit but didn't deliver or didn't reveal its refund policy.

3. Retail sales • Companies that didn't deliver products within 30 days, or delivered a bait-and-switch product or service ranked high in consumer dissatisfaction. Consumers also registered complaints when a business did not honor a warranty.

4. E-commerce/Internet offers • Utahns continued to fall prey to online scams, where fraudsters dipped into bank accounts or automatically billed a monthly fee until the service was canceled.

5. Model/talent/acting offers • Scamsters used flattery and promises of fame and fortune to get adoring parents to buy pricey classes for their children or to enter into contracts with up-front fees.

6. Telemarketing • Tactics included misrepresenting a product or service to get consumers to sign up.

7. Personal services • Scams included lawn care and TV subscriber services, which required consumers to sign up for a yearlong contract, only to see the charges raised.

8. Alarm systems • Consumers complained about aggressive door-to-door sales and promises of an upgrade to an existing service, only to discover they had signed up for an additional, separate contract.

9. Auto repairs/sales • Consumers criticized vendors who repaired a vehicle without asking for permission first and who engaged in aggressive sales pitches.

10. Home improvement/repair • Complaints in this area involved contractors who failed to complete work after they were provided a deposit, those who misrepresented their work and those who refused to finish the job unless the consumer consented to a higher price.

Utahns also reported 9,907 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission last year, with debt collection, catalog sales and banks and lenders making up the top three. —

Got a consumer complaint?

O Contact the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at (801) 530-6601 or http://www.consumerprotection.utah.gov