It has never been easier for criminals to make a buck via consumer fraud—or for us to fall for these scams. Technology, including the Internet and text messages, has made it easy for unscrupulous people to find their victims.
“Most people get hooked into consumer fraud today through email,” said Attorney Cheryl Gill. “It can happen to anyone.”
You may get an offer to make big bucks working at home or to get a free product or service—only to find shipping and handling costs are more than the item itself. Or there may be a “phishing” email scam that appears to come from your bank asking you to “validate your bank account” by emailing or texting your Social Security number or password to it.
Don’t do it. As sophisticated as we might think we are, Gill said, this old adage still applies: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
How do you protect yourself from scams?
- Read the fine print, which may contain critical information—such as signing away your rights to sue if you have a problem.
- Research the company before you do business with it by searching for complaints against the specific company. You can go to the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, or the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
- Check out insurance issues with the Office of Insurance Commissioner, or financial issues with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
- Get your telephone numbers on the no-call registry so they can’t legally call you at home.
- Report fraudulent or “phishing” email to your Internet service provider so it can be blocked.
You can file a complaint with any of these government agencies or the Better Business Bureau, but prevention is always better. Investigations take time and there is no guarantee you can get your money back. “Even if an agency goes after a company, you may not be able to get your money back because that business may be long gone,” Gill said.
For more information on consumer fraud law in Wisconsin, contact Cheryl Gill at 608-784-5678.