MADISON — As people ring in the New Year and plan to make positive changes in their lives in 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection suggests a resolution that won’t cost a penny: take time to learn more about scams and prevention steps to avoid getting ripped off.
Sheila Harsdorf, DATCP secretary, says avoidance starts with learning how con artists operate: how they target victims, what ploys they use to get a person’s attention, and what they are seeking.
Harsdorf says the DATCP offers a wealth of free consumer protection resources:
— Its website, datcp.wi.gov, is full of consumer tips and information. The site’s online complaint form can be the best and quickest way to file a consumer complaint with the agency. DATCP fact sheets and guides are also free to download from the site.
In addition, keep an eye on the Bureau of Consumer Protection Facebook and Twitter accounts for additional information.
— DATCP’s Consumer Protection Hotline, 800-422-7128 or [email protected], is available Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m., to help with questions and concerns, to report a possible scam or to request a fact sheet or consumer complaint form by mail.
— DATCP produces three consumer protection bookmarks with tips to help protect individuals from general scams, identity theft and imposter scams. Persons can request these bookmarks by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline or by picking up a copy at an event where Bureau of Consumer Protection representatives are participating.
Reading about all the various scams can seem overwhelming, says Harsdorf. She says to remember one simple tip: many fraud attempts are the same at their cores; it’s only the story being pitched that is different.
Many consumers recognize these scam calls as problematic and report them to the DATCP. But others may not know how to react when they receive an unsolicited sales call or email — especially a pushy one — or an unexpected request for money or financial information.
Harsdorf encourages the public to start their “scam-free 2018” by doing their research, learning to spot the common elements in scam attempts, and sharing what they’ve learned with family and friends.
“Your best protection against these crooks is awareness and knowledge of the best steps to take,” said Harsdorf.