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Telemarketing, identity theft top list of consumer complaints in Wisconsin

Rich Kremer Wisconsin Public Radio The number of identity theft complaints in Wisconsin increased by 80 percent last year according to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, with the majority of crimes involving stolen tax ...

Rich Kremer

Wisconsin Public Radio

The number of identity theft complaints in Wisconsin increased by 80 percent last year according to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, with the majority of crimes involving stolen tax returns. The department also reported a high number of complaints about telemarketing.

Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Michelle Reinen said DATCP has seen a major increase in the number of people being victimized by identity theft. Last year a total of 823 identity theft complaints came to her office with nearly 700 reporting stolen tax returns.  Reinen said most identity thieves aren’t caught.

"It’s very difficult to know who’s stolen the identity. That’s the problem with identity theft. It can go on undetected with children for years. For adults, something triggers it," Reinen said

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That includes notifications from credit cards, the IRS or routine credit checks. To help prevent identity theft, Reinen said customers need to be vigilant.

"Do they shred documents that contain personally identifiable information? Do you check your credit report on a regular basis to monitor and minimize damage? Do you check your bank statement?" she said.

Reinen added that online tax filers should be sure antivirus software is up to date and computers, routers and even apps on tablets and phones are secure.

Regarding telemarketing, said Reinen said calls from scam artists are on the rise.

"So, they are pretending to be the government, the IRS threatening you about your taxes, it could be your local utility company, they’re using that name and phone number on your caller ID to threaten turning your utilities off or they’re offering to lower your interest rates on your credit cards," she said.

Reinen urged people to hang up the phone if a call seems suspicious and never give out personal banking information over the phone.

Landlord or tenant complaints were also high on the DATCP list and include disputes over security deposits, unauthorized entry and evictions.

More WPR news is available on KUWS-FM 91.3 or online at wpr.org.

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