IF you think you’ve been scammed by a company, I’ll explain WHERE you should file consumer complaints and WHY you should file your consumer complaints to various State, Local, and Federal Agencies (as well as the BBB). The more complaints you file with EVERY agency the better decision can be made on behalf of all parties involved – consumers as well as the company you are complaining about.
Although the following steps for filing consumer complaints apply mostly to filing complaints against sellers of home business, business opportunities, and other “work at home” materials, they apply to many other types of consumer complaints as well. If you have a question about a particular situation or anything that follows, feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments section and I will answer you or find somebody that can.
IF you run a site where you believe any information in this post may be helpful to your visitors, clients, family, friends, feel free to copy everything verbatim or make any changes you feel necessary. NO attribution or linkbacks are expected or required. This is only ONE facet of how to disrupt fraud distribution channels, but it is an important one.
IMPORTANT! Do NOT file complaints just because you are “mad” at a company. However, if you feel a company has acted deceptively in your dealings with them or is engaging in unfair business practices then the following is the where and why of how to file complaints:
1. You should DEFINITELY file complaints with the Better Business Bureau. You can file here:
WHY file complaints with the BBB:
I’m not a big fan of the BBB for “evaluating” companies on their own – but they do a GREAT JOB of collecting and organizing complaints.
Not only that, but the FTC reviews complaints from the BBB on a regular basis as part of their gathering of extrinsic evidence on cases (essentially that means evidence outside their review of the actual sales materials and sales process).
2. You should DEFINITELY file with your AGs Office and the AG of any state that the company is operating out of. You can find the relevant Attorneys General’s offices here:
Click here for a full list of Current Attorneys General’s Offices (note: will take a few seconds to load)
WHY file complaints with the AGs:
One of my friends is an attorney that used to work for the Missouri Attorneys General’s office. Here’s what she told me:
She said that typically ONE state AG will will investigate a company first and then file suit against them if they feel it is justified. After that OTHER AGs will sometimes also file against the company. And AFTER the AGS file, the FTC takes notice and considers filing against the company.
3. You should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
WHY file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission
Again, this has to do with collecting extrinsic evidence that the FTC sometimes factors into their cases.
4. You should file a complaint with IC3.gov (The Internet Crime Complaint Center)
WHY file complaints with IC3.gov
IC3.gov is useful for law enforcement to determine if certain potential cases are related, even if they appear to be from different sectors.
5. It may be helpful to contact your State’s Office Of Consumer Protection
Why contact your State’s Office Of Consumer Protection
Some Consumer Protection Offices do facilitate dispute resolution. However, you should note that certain complaints may be within the jurisdiction of other local, state, or federal offices.
6. Contact Your District Attorney’s (United States Attorney’s) Office
Why contact your District Attorney’s Office
The District Attorney prosecutes criminal matters and represents the U.S. Government in civil matters.
7. File A Complaint With The United States Postal Inspection Service
If you believe you’re a victim of fraud related to the U.S. Mail, including mailed sweepstakes, lotteries, on-line auctions, work-at-home scams or chain letters, report your concern to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service as mail fraud.
The Bottom Line: Why You Should File Complaints
Many businesses spend a significant amount of time discussing “clever” ways to word disclaimers. The question of course is whether or not the wording actually complies with the intention of the regulations that have been put in place.
Many companies know that if consumers think the company has used a valid disclaimer that the consumers will not complain. Filing complaints is an essential way to put companies that engage in potentially questionable business practices on law enforcement’s radar.
Although it’s obvious that no company wants their customers to complain, the reasons why they don’t want their customers to complain is a major element of what separates a legitimate company from one that is questionable or explicitly engaging in deceptive practices.
The basic plan for many of the worst companies is this:
Step 1: Include some sort of disclaimer which appears to cover parts of the sales process consumers are likely to complain about.
Step 2: Hire 3rd party call centers that specialize in fielding complaints from the consumers that aren’t stopped in Step 1. These centers are specifically trained to refer customers back to the disclaimers in order to make the consumer believe their efforts are hopeless.
Step 3: If a consumer isn’t stopped by Step 1 & Step 2, they will often then post their compaints on blogs and complaint sites (of course some post right away before Steps 1 & 2). Although it can be useful for consumers to post their experiences on blogs and complaint sites it can also be the only thing that consumers do.
Many of the companies realize this and will start posting as their “Customer Support” within the blogs and make statements like “We are dismayed to see the statements people are making when we are in fact helping so many people”. It’s a last ditch effort to try to fly under law enforcement’s radar by using one last strategy to prevent consumers from filing complaints.
- FTC Policy Statement On Deception. Although it’s old, FTC attorneys continually refer to this policy statement as an important statement of how the FTC judges whether or not a company has engaged in an act of deception.
- FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection – I encourage you to note this part: “Wants to hear from consumers who want to get information”. If you have a question or are unclear about anything you read on the FTC site, ASK them to clarify.
- Full Text of the Safe Web Act of 2006 – Enacted as a means to help law enforcement fight cross-border fraud.
- Scope and Limitations of Data Sharing within the Safe Web Act – from the Federal Register
- Help With My Bank - can be helpful if you are trying to recover your money as it shows you how to work with your credit card company or bank.
- Consumer Rights For credit and debit cards – easy to read summary explaining important differences between debit card disputes and credit card disputes
- Debit Card facts – covers much of the previous, but also goes into how some companies hold as much as $50 – $75 more than what you actual owe for as long as several days thereby locking out your access to your own money.
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