WHAT'S YOUR BEEF?

I have never understood quite why, but we Americans do love our statistics.

03-16-11-margaret.gifWhich NBA basketball player who once played for Carolina scored the most points ever in a second half?

What was the box offi ce take for The King’s Speech the weekend it opened?

How are President Obama and Governor Perdue doing in North Carolina’s political polls this week?

What are the top 10 vacation spots in the world?

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has just released some stats from his office in honor of National Consumer Protection Week, so now we know our state’s Top 10 consumer areas that drive us crazy — what we and our fellow Tar Heels, almost 22,000 of us, complained about last year.

And for the sixth year running, the winner is — what else? Healthcare!

More than 4,600 of us were so upset about some aspect of healthcare that we took the time and effort to complain to our Attorney General. Complaints included medical care providers, their services and charges, medical insurance providers and how they handle or do not handle claims and various healthcare products. More than 4,600 more reasons our country needs healthcare reform.

Next up, lending issues.

More than 3,900 of us were unhappy with some lending practice, including high interest rates, various fees for late payments and pre-payments, adjustable rates mortgages and continuing foreclosure problems. Our AG reminds us that it is illegal to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure assistance. Sadly, we in North Carolina are hardly alone in facing such lending issues with the industry many believe brought us the Great Recession.

Numbers 3 and 4 include my personal pet peeves, unwanted telemarketing calls and telemarketing fraud. Both my home phone and my cell phone numbers are listed on the Do Not Call Registry, but I still get those calls on both phones. It is to the point that I simply do not answer any 800 or like calls, and I delete their voice mails without listening to them as do many people.

But enough of us must be taken in by whatever they are saying, because they keep calling. It is frightening to think about how many people must be hoodwinked by these callers, including senior citizens. Roy Cooper would tell you that if someone we do not know calls and asks for personal information — Social Security numbers, credit cards, bank accounts — we should just say no and hang up.

Scams to “repair” poor credit, pushy debt collectors and identity theft generated more than 1,600 calls, and with good reason. In our electronic world, unscrupulous people are indeed stealing the identities of others and running up debts in their names. In many cases, the victims do not even find out about this until well after the fact, and these cases are diffi cult to unravel, much less prosecute.

Most of us cannot do without our vehicles for transportation to and from our jobs and other places, so it makes sense that there are often issues in this arena. They include problems with purchases and repairs, trouble getting titles from sellers and warranty disputes. I would be hard pressed to think of anyone I know who has not dealt with several of these.

If our homes are our castles, then we want them just the way we want them, and that sometimes presents problems. More than 1,600 of us had issues 7 and 8, revolving around home furnishings and home repairs. A friend learned a hard lesson when she convinced her skeptical hubby to spring for a custom sofa costing several thousand dollars. Payment was made and but no elegant sofa appeared. Not surprisingly, the seller quit taking her calls. The sofa did turn up a full fi ve years late — after my friends had moved to another community and had a new home and a new decorating scheme.

Home repairs can be equally painful, often involving contractors who disappear with money, leave an incomplete job, miss deadlines and go over project budgets. And then there are scammers who talk people into unneeded repairs and sometimes simply disappear with the money. Trusting seniors are often the targets of these cheats.

In our electronic age, there are bound to be complaints in this area, so television services and cell phone issues round out the Consumer Protection Top Ten. Whether the problem was bundled bills that do not provide the promised savings or poor reception, about 2,000 of us got mad enough to contact Roy Cooper.

Just thinking about some of my own experiences in these areas is enough to make me consider giving Roy’s offi ce a buzz. If you share my sentiment or if you have specifi c issues you need advice about how to resolve or you want to fi le a complaint, the Consumer Protection Division is just a few keystrokes or a phone call away at www.ncdoj.gov and 1-800-5NO-SCAM.

Our tax dollars at work for us.

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