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Telemarketing leads consumer complaints in 2017

Telemarketing continues to top the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection's annual list of consumer complaints.

The state agency received 4,147 telemarketing complaints last year, an increase of more than 12 percent over the 2016 total and a 62 percent increase over 2015.

"It is critical that consumers continue to report the unwanted and unsolicited calls they receive to DATCP," said Michelle Reinen, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. "In an effort to enforce the state's Do Not Call laws, DATCP follows up on every telemarketing complaint we receive and attempts to identify the caller. We also use the complaint information to identify trends, warn the public, and help our federal partners build nationwide cases against the scammers behind the calls."

A significant number of 2017 telemarketing complaints were about unsolicited calls to renew extended automotive warranty service contracts and to lower credit card interest rates. Imposter scams were also a major issue last year, with scammers falsely claiming to represent government agencies and well-known businesses such as the Internal Revenue Service, utility companies and "Microsoft Tech Support" in an attempt to rip off call recipients.

The goal of these scams is to trick you into making a payment or to unwittingly share your personal information. Thankfully, most of the reports DATCP received about scams last year were from consumers who did not fall for the ruse.

The rest of the top five complaint categories include landlord-tenant complaints, 1,141 complaints, up 20 from 2016, commonly involving security deposit returns, evictions, unauthorized entries, inadequate disclosures and unsatisfactory services; telecommunications, 763 complaints, up 65 from 2016 involving long distance, cellular phone, internet, satellite and cable services as well as bundled service packages; identity theft, 453 complaints, up 22 from 2016, involving data breaches, tax identity theft and fraud; and home improvement, 403 complaints, up 20 from 2016, involving a failure to provide services, charges for work not provided, failures to honor warranties, improper installations and poor workmanship.

A brand-new category for the 2017 year, medical services debuted at No. 7 with 195 complaints. The primary complaint issues for this category were billing disputes, misrepresentations and unauthorized charges. This category covers medical services related to clinics, hospitals and professional services in the medical field. It does not include complaints about medical devices or products.

For more information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wi.gov or contact the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128 or datcphotline@wisconsin.gov.