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Wisconsin Consumer Protection Bureau: Avoid Holiday Scams

Holiday shoppers should arm themselves with information about the latest scams, according to the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection. (Wikimedia Commons)
Holiday shoppers should arm themselves with information about the latest scams, according to the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection. (Wikimedia Commons)
November 22, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – Holiday shopping begins in earnest Thursday, and there are plenty of scams aimed at consumers.

Many of them have been around for years, but still claim victims.

Newspapers and flyers full of holiday ads will be out through the Thanksgiving weekend.

Michelle Reinen, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, has some advice for shoppers looking for the big bargains in the paper.

She tells consumers to read the ads carefully, including the fine print, to make sure they don't spend time running out to get a great deal and end up disappointed.

"Because maybe that's not on sale until one in the afternoon, it's not the hot buy at that location, or you may have to make a second purchase in order to get the price for the first item," she states.

Reinen says when you're looking at ads for the same item from two different stores, make sure you're comparing apples to apples, regarding the terms of the sale item.

Telephone scams from crooks posing as spokespeople for charitable organizations are a common holiday problem.

Reinen advises consumers to be very wary of unsolicited phone calls.

"Ask them to follow up in writing,” she states. “If you're interested in the spiel that they give you on the phone, can you follow that up in writing and send that to me, so you can check out that charity and make sure that they're registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions."

Gift cards are a popular gift option, and Reinen advises checking the packaging of the gift card very carefully. Check for tampering.

"No protective stickers have been removed or that that PIN number cover hasn't been exposed because you want to make sure that it hasn't been accessed and someone isn't just sitting there lurking, waiting for it to be activated, and they'll deplete it before you can ever give it away," she states.

The Internet is full of traps for the unsuspecting consumer, according to Reinen, who says people should be wary of email blasts or text messages that lead you to a website.

"Some of the classified ads take you to links that look legitimate but are imposter websites – they're impersonating a real company,” she explains. “And when you come to making that purchase, making sure that you're now at a secure portion of the website."

The way to be sure it's secure is to make sure the URL starts with https. The s stands for secure. If it isn't there, Reinen advises great caution about giving out any personal information.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI