Utility, government shams rock the consumer protection hotline

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has received a number of recent reports about imposter phone scams, most notably those where the caller claims to be with the local utility or the Social Security Administration (SSand demands money or personal information.A).

Officials say Wisconsinites should be on the lookout for these fraudsters and hang up immediately if a caller makes threats

The majority of the recent imposter scam reports to DATCP have involved:

  • fake utility representatives claiming that they need a payment to keep the power on,
  • fake SSA representatives making threats about legal action or the withholding of benefits unless the consumer turns over money or personal information,
  • fake Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents demanding immediate payment for back taxes under the threat of arrest or legal action, or
  • fake Medicare representatives insisting that you will face a loss of benefits if you do not provide personal identification information and/or pay a fee. Scammers may also claim to offer free medical devices under the Medicare program.

Officials say these sham calls have been a nationwide nuisance for a number of years, and there is real money at risk. Over the past 15 months, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received more than 63,000 reports of fake SSA calls alone. Three percent of the people who filed those complaints lost money in the scam – more than $16.6 million in losses has already been reported. Again, that does not even include the losses to fake utility, IRS or Medicare representatives.

For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at https://datcp.wi.gov, call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-422-7128 or send an e-mail to datcphotline@wi.gov.

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