At least once a week, Portage Public Library employees hear from patrons who have concerns about identity theft or other scams.
Monday’s free presentation is for them, and anyone else who wants tips for safeguarding personal information, said Library Director Jessica Bergin.
“This is a bigger topic of conversation among patrons than it’s been before,” she said of the library’s first installment of a “How-To” series. “It seems like a real need in our community, and we’re always looking to fill those needs.”
Laura Fay, an agency liaison for the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection, will share information about identity theft — a top-three consumer complaint levied to the Federal Trade Commission for several years — and how to spot the red flags of scams.
In Wisconsin, identity theft ranks fourth in number of complaints made to the bureau, trailing only telemarketing, landlord/tenant issues and telecommunications (satellite, cable, internet, cellular, etc.), Fay reported. The identity theft complaint totals aren’t extreme — 453 in 2017, compared with 431 in 2016 — but it pays to be vigilant, she said.
“Some of these scams look very authentic, very legitimate. So I’ll go over the current and common scams we’re seeing now, as well as answer any questions related to Equifax,” the credit reporting agency which, due to a recent data breach, might have compromised the personal information of 143 million Americans.
“The main thing is education,” Fay said, “understanding what the crimes are, how they happen and what to do to prevent them.”
Her prevention tips run the gamut, from shredding documents to being more careful about entering private information when using public Wi-Fi. “People might be surprised to learn how common dumpster diving and stolen mail still is,” she said. She added child identity theft has become a significant issue in recent years.
Regarding identity theft, “A lot of people hear that it’s targeting only seniors, but that’s not true. It is for certain scams, but not necessarily for identity theft itself,” Fay said.
One increasingly popular online scam involves fraudulent shipment tracking. Scammers often pose as Amazon or eBay representatives, for example, emailing false Web links to track packages.
“Such links might have viruses or direct you to pages where you’re asked to put in personal information,” Fay said.
“I’m not sure there’s a No. 1 tip, but overall I’d say we need to be more careful of what we’re putting out there and who’s asking for the information — not clicking those (unverified) links or opening attachments from any unknown senders.
“It’s the same idea with online pop-ups, the phone calls — anybody asking for money.”
For those who cannot attend Monday’s presentation, Fay encourages residents to read fact sheets available at datcp.wi.gov.
People also can call the bureau’s consumer protection hotline at 800-422-7128.
Next in line for the library’s how-to series is “How to Start a Small Business” on March 26 , a health and wellness class on April 16 , and “Gardening 101” on May 21.
How-to classes generally will be held at 6:30 p.m., usually on the third Monday of each month to reach a wider audience, the new adult services librarian, Leslie Schultz, said in an email.