Dec 25, 2007

Here's how easy it is to break into your luggage

Toy packaging creates headaches for parents

The reporter in this story uses a variety of potentially dangerous tools to make his point about how hard it is to open toy packages. It's a good point. Several years ago, I required hand surgery after using a scissors to remove plastic wrapping.

Dec 23, 2007

Weights and Measures inspectors protecting you from overcharges

Milwuakee Journal analyzes statistics from weights and measures inspections

Dec 19, 2007

Consumers will keep on paying for new TV's on monthly utility bills

Some of those new flat screen TV's use a lot more electricity than the old ones.

Dec 13, 2007

Dec 12, 2007

Mike Ivey: Gift cards: the $8 billion sucking sound

The Madison Capitol Times' Mike Ivey on gift cards

Dec 8, 2007

Gift check giving and receiving advice from Slate's Dear Prudence

Consumer Reports on how to get the lowest price when online Christmas shopping

Consumer Reports says that dynamic pricing means that you may be charged more than someone else when shopping on line.

Contractor prosecuted after WI Consumer Protection investigates

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports on questionable contractors and how to avoid them.

Dec 6, 2007

Analysis of identity theft statistics

"Between 2004-2006 there was a significant increase in theft via the Internet, lost or stolen wallets, and home and car robberies." This is an interesting analysis of identity theft during 2006.

Nov 21, 2007

Grace period getting shorter for paying credit card bills

To avoid getting late payment fees, pay attention to notices from your bank.

Coupons from cell phones

Here is an example of what might be coming to your community.

Coping with cell phone spam

The spam coming in on cell phones costs you money.

Is your password a pushover?

To many of us are guilty of using weak passwords.

Nov 18, 2007

Cranky over cell phone charger

Hand cranked cell phone charger said not to be worth it.

Nov 16, 2007

Consumers misunderstand privacy notices

Those privacy notices you get in the mail may not be what you think they are. After the first paragraphs where the company tells you how important your privacy is, they may go on to tell you that they are actually sharing your private information.

Staying safe and getting the best deal online

Optical stores flunk test

Problems with your eyes could be problems with your glasses.

Study finds many retailers easy to hack

Alleges that criminal can go down the street with a laptop and harvest and steal identities.

Nov 4, 2007

WKOW-TV warns about a new credit card scam

You can stop financial junk mail starting in January

Congress says financial companies have to offer you opt outs for junk mail.

Questionable marketing gets around No Call List

Some companies are trying to get you to unknowingly sign off on the No Call List.

More help for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision?

Kipplinger's reports that Congress may provide more funding for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What to look for when purchasing a computer

Walt Mossberg's advice when buying a new computer.

Oct 27, 2007

Keeping your car's repair codes a secret from you

The debate over car manufacturers keeping repair codes confidential.

10 ways to save on energy costs

Consumer Reports magazine on what you can do to save energy.

Oct 19, 2007

Consumer complaints about Google

Google helps millions, but some consumers are unhappy.

When your significant other is your computer

We may be spending more time with our computers than with our loved ones.

Oct 14, 2007

The 6 most common fake check scams

Scammers using fake checks are taking a ton of money out of Wisconsin communities. You will never be scammed this way if you are suspicious of checks coming from strangers and refuse to wire or send money cards to them.

Dime stores have turned into dollar stores and then some

Although they are sometimes criticised for the quality of their products, dollar stores are fun and offer bargains. But I recently learned that not all stores with "dollar" in their names are alike.

When my 6-year-old granddaughter asked me to take her to a dollar store in her hometown, I found two stores very close to each other. But when we went into them, she kept finding items that cost $3, $5, and $7.

Now I don't mind a store selling $7 items, I just think the store should change its advertising to say "dollars" store.

Best Buy adds disclaimer to in-store web lookalike advertising

Best Buy customers can access price information at in-store kiosks by clicking on a tab labeled "," even though they are really not connecting to the internet site. Because in-store prices may be higher, a disclaimer has been added.

Free phone service listens to your calls and displays relevant ads

Former intelligence officers give away free phone service to young people in exchange for listening to what they say.

Oct 13, 2007

Many online retailers don't answer emails

If you feel like your online complaints are going unanswered, you may be right. Glen Loyd from the state Office of Consumer Protection joined WLUK-TV'S Good Day Wisconsin with the results of a new survey about online retailers.

Oct 7, 2007

We've learned a lot about ID theft during the first year of the Office of Privacy Protection

We are here for journalists interested in ID theft in Wisconsin. Recently the Janesville Gazette asked about skimming.

Unbalanced bank accounts bleed money

Young people pay $1 billion in overdraft penalties. Source of this information.

Fond Du Lac reporter buys a car carefully

A Fond Du Lac reporter sets good example for other young people in doing her home work before buying a car

177 people in Madison are waiting to check out books by Kevin Trudeau who is being sued for deceptive weight loss advertising

Sep 30, 2007

Use a travel agent to avoid scam vacations

Kevin Trudeau allegedly misleading consumers again

Infomercial king Kevin Trudeau is being sued again by the Federal Trade Commission which looks after the interests of U.S. consumers

On line criminals more sophisticated

Criminals selling infections headed for your computer

Public Investigators report on No Call violater

Ever wonder what happens to businesses that violate Wisconsins's No Call list? The Milwaukee Journal reports one of a number of prosecutions.

Sep 23, 2007

Alleges Wisconsin scale servicer not doing job accurately

Wisconsin weights and measures inspection alleges that a company servicing and repairing scales in many Wisconsin stores didn't do its job accurately. As a result, NCR Corp. is paying more than $50,000. (Milwaukee Journal Public Investigator Ellen Gabler reporting)

Sep 21, 2007

How your personal information spreads on the Internet

An expert quoted in Forbes says there could be a million copies of that information!

Five things to look for in a retirement home

Looking at retirement home for your parents or yourself? Smart Money tells what to look for.

Those free lunches offered by investment companies can be costly

A federal agency regulating investing companies warns consumers to be wary of free lunches.

Florida "free vacation" company settles with Wisconsin consumers

Did you accept a free vacation offer and then get your credit card charged hundreds of dollars? Press here to learn how to get your money back.

Sep 16, 2007

Jim Rabbitt of Consumer Protection says, "It's a black hole."

Most often it's buried in the fine print. And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says mandatory arbitration not always fair

Business Week magazine says too many college students are majoring in credit card debt

Keep your car safe from theives

Here are tips from the experts for keeping theives out of your car.

Sep 15, 2007

Puppy scam keeps nipping away at Wisconsin

Consumer Protection has been warning about the puppy scam since the beginning of the year. Fake ads with cute puppy photos and very low prices attract consumers who are told to wire the money.

Sep 8, 2007

Watch out for phishing scams on, the place where many people in Wisconsin place their job resumes, has been hacked!

Signing up for Wisconsin's No Call List

Remember that you have to sign up every two years for Wisconsin's No Call List. You can sign up right now, by clicking the No Call link on this page.

Sep 3, 2007

Alleges misrepresentation at big box computer stores

PC World alleges that some salespeople at big box computer stores convince purchasers to buy unnecessary backups.

Warnings for flood victims

The WI Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has warnings for flood victims about food, scammers, fires and explosions.

Think you have won an adjustable bed?

Complaints about adjustable bed company's alleged high pressure sales tactics.

80 percent of us don't read the fine print

In past weeks, I have been warning Wisconsin consumers about the fine print in contracts being sold by home alarm salespeople. By signing the contract, you may give up your right to a jury trial, for example. In this article from the Newhouse News Service consumers are told what to look for in the small print.

Aug 24, 2007

Are consumers with higher IQs handling their money better than others?

You don't have to be super smart to be rich. A new study suggests that people who are slightly above normal intelligence may be doing best with their money.“Your IQ has really no relationship to your wealth. And being very smart does not protect you from getting into financial difficulty,” says the authhor.

Aug 19, 2007

WKOW-TV exposes the 2 con combination

The free check scam combined with the secret shopper rip-off is producing a hard-to-resist lure in Wisconsin.

Top 10 opt outs

Wish you could get your hands on that information on how to opt out of companies bugging you with their products. Here are the top 10 ways.
First off, make sure you are on Wisconsin's No Call List: Sign up by calling 1-866-966-2255 or by visiting
And if you are interested in Wisconsin's credit freeze option, go to the Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection.

Aug 13, 2007

Aug 10, 2007

Gift cards used by scammers to launder money

Video from WLUK-TV in Green Bay on how criminals use gift cards to launder money and to collect money from vicitms.

Superior Police arrest two sellers in "suspicious home alarm system sales"

Consumer Protection has contacted all Wisconsin city and village clerks about complaints concerning door-to-door sellers of home alarm systems. Superior and a number of other municipalities are denying sales permits to these companies. The Superior Police Department arrested two sellers and issued a press release advising:
-Be cautious of letting any stranger enter your home for any reason.
-To ask for company or organization identification.
-Request to see a Direct Sellers Permit issued by the City of Superior.
-Not give out personal data such as Social Security or bank account numbers to anyone that you did not initiate the contact with.
-To not sign any forms when you feel you’re being pressured or intimidated.
-To report any suspicious activity to the police by calling 911 immediately.
-If the person leaves, gather information such as vehicle description or license numbers for the officer.

Contract can't be changed with web post

Court ruling: Change in contract requires direct notice, not just web posting.

Aug 3, 2007

Be wary of secret shopper jobs

Consumer Reports magazine says that while there are real secret shopper jobs, you could easily be ripped off chasing one.

Aug 1, 2007

Protect your identify when moving

We are especially vulnerable to identity theft when we move. Here is advice from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. To opt-out of pre-approved credit card offers:
To request your free credit card report:

Jul 31, 2007

Last year we warned about cigarettes in flowerpots causing fires. Now fire departments say it's happening!

How to keep your kids safe from adult websites

When little kids use a search engine to find their favorite TV show website, they can be directed to questionable sites. Here is how to protect your children or grandchildren

Jul 29, 2007

Don't pay too much for cars!

I have been shopping for a car lately and a consumer recognized me on a dealer’s lot and asked me for advice. I suggested that she spend $14 dollars on Consumer Reports bottom line car buying service. You tell Consumer Reports the car you are interesting in and they tell you almost exactly how much you should pay. Never pay the price on the window without doing your homework!
Over the years, I've had a lot of complaints from people who were not careful when buying cars and have lost a lot of money.
To buy wisely, go to a public library and find out from Consumer Reports about problem cars to avoid, cars with the best repair records and most miles per gallon, and their general price range. Many consumers don’t take this step and buy problems. And when these cars break down,the dealer in most cases won’t refund your money, but will be happy to let you trade in for another and get hundreds of dollars more from you.
In fact, it’s very easy to pay thousands of dollars too much for new and used cars. So before buying, look for the April (car) issue of Consumer Reports at the library.

Jul 26, 2007

Free money! They send you a fake check and ask you to buy gift cards for them as commission

Con artists have found a new way to get victims to send them money besides Western Union. The common denominator of both methods is that the criminal doesn't have to reveal his real name or address to collect the money.
Victims are told free money is available to them--supposedly for education, debt relief, low income subsidy or any other type of "financial aid."
Victims apply for their grant and are sent a check, typically for $4975, and are told to turn over part of the check for the broker's commission. The victim is instructed to send the broker's commission by purchasing a Green Dot prepaid card that you can buy at a neighborhood retailer and then use anywhere worldwide that MasterCard® Debit Cards or Visa® Debit Cards are accepted, including ATMs.
The victim is promised a second,larger check after the stored value card's serial numbers are emailed to the "broker" who uses the serial numbers to get money from the card.
Eventually, the original check is returned as counterfeit.

More complaints about home security door-to-door salespeople canvassing wisconsin

There now appear to be four companies from Utah selling home security systems door-to-door in Wisconsin. Here are TV stories from WKOW-TV in Madison and WITI-TV in Milwaukee.

Jul 20, 2007

Scam targeting military families

A classic scam involves a family getting an emergency call about a family member who has been injured or is in some kind of trouble. The family is asked for money or information that can be used for identity theft. WKBT-TV in La Crosse says it now happening to military families.

$1 charge leads to credit fraud suspicion

By Abby Wucherer, Daily Register

When Rudy Wehert of Poynette was notified of a $1 charge to his Home Depot credit card that he never made, he immediately recalled a radio show he listened to just days earlier.

The show, "Up Front with Vicki McKenna," discussed scams that commandeer financial accounts through random number generators.

"The way I understand it, they run these numbers through the computers. That's the way (Glen) Loyd from consumer protection was discussing it," Wehert said.

The Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection says bank, credit card and credit union offers may make you vulnerable to theft and fraud

Are you getting blank checks in the mail from your existing credit companies? The checks, a marketing tool for credit companies are called convenience checks and are mailed to consumers everyday. The checks are intended to make it easy for you, the consumer to pay off other bills or access cash quickly. The convenience checks probably have your actual account and/or routing numbers, making fraud incredibly easy. They come in your mailbox and can make you vulnerable to theft and fraud if your mail is intercepted.
The Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection says that if you do not want to receive any in your mailbox, opt-out of marketing offers by following these simple steps. Call your existing bank, credit union or card issuer and ask them to opt you out of all marketing offers, including convenience checks. While you're at it, ask them to refrain from increasing the limit you can borrow unless you request it and sending you an upgraded card, i.e. from gold to platinum.. All of these marketing strategies may make you vulnerable or at best give you more material to shred.
Probably the best time to opt out is when you open a new account. The next time you have a few minutes, grab your credit cards, turn them over and call customer service. (Same thing with your bank statements.) Ask them to remove you from all marketing lists—including for any “affiliates.” They may ask you to put your request in writing. They have 120 days to comply with written requests. Oh, and if you ever order additional or replacement cards or accounts, make sure you opt-out again.
Additionally, you can opt-out of pre-approved credit offers that you do not have an existing relationship with at (888)567-8688 or online at

Jul 13, 2007

WBAY-TV interviews consumer protection about criminals altering caller ID

Madison area Consumer Protection manager David Tatar shows technology used to alter a caller's voice and caller ID.

Elderly Madison couple loses $100,000 to scammer/May lose more

Jul 12, 2007

Door-to-door crews wanting you to sign contracts

Consumers are complaining to us about door-to-door sellers--with no permits--pressuring them, failing to leave, and doing shoddy work. (The I Team as WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee recently warned about an out-of-state firm selling home alarms.)

These days door-to-door salespeople want you to sign contracts for a number of different services. Know that some of these contracts have four-pages with small print that may commit you to payments for years to come.

Don’t be pressured to sign no matter what they are promising until you have carefully read the contract and have done comparison shopping with similar firms in your home town.

Sometimes the salespeople don’t have all the facts and make verbal promises that the company won’t back up. If the promise isn’t written, be skeptical.

Remember, when someone knocks on your door, your instinct for hospitality and politeness may take over and make your vulnerable.

Years ago, an Appleton bus driver told me he signed a contract for expensive windows because he wanted to go to bed and the the salesman wouldn’t leave.

I also just received a call from an Appleton area man who thinks his car may have been stolen by a salesman who stepped into his home, asking for drink of water. The car was stolen Sunday night as the home owner was going to bed. He says he knows the salesman saw his key rack.

You could be dropping off Wisconsin's No Call List!

Consumer Protection often gets calls from consumers wanting to know if they are still on the No Call List--typically after they receive a rash of telemarketing calls. A lot of people fall off the list because they don't remember that you have to sign up every two years. Consumer Protection recommends that you sign up every year so you don't forget. You might want to register on your birthday and give yourself a continuous present. Sign up by calling 1-866-966-2255 or by visiting

You have to still be careful when cancelling an internet service provider!

Although AOL will be refunding money to Wisconsin residents who received AOL bills after cancelling the Internet service, consumers still need to make sure they aren't being billed when cancelling any Internet service. Two times in recent years, complaints about Internet service providers landed in Consumer Protection's Top Ten List.

Jul 11, 2007

What's your experience with eBay?

A Consumer Reports survey found almost half of eBay users surveyed encountered questionable tactics. More than 170 consumers have filed complaints about their eBay experience with the Bureau of Consumer Protection in Wisconsin.

Cars nag us for service; houses just sit there and deteriorate

Here's why some of us take better care of our cars than our houses...even though our houses cost twenty times more.

Jul 4, 2007

Don't pay too much for a car!

I have been shopping for a car lately and a consumer recognized me on a dealer’s lot and asked me for advice. I suggested that she spend $14 dollars on Consumer Reports bottom line car buying service. You tell Consumer Reports the car you are interesting in and they tell you almost exactly how much you should pay. Never pay the price on the window without doing your homework!
Over the years, I've had a lot of complaints from people who were not careful when buying cars and have lost a lot of money.
To buy wisely, go to a public library and find out from Consumer Reports about problem cars to avoid, cars with the best repair records and most miles per gallon, and their general price range. Many consumers don’t take this step and buy problems. And when these cars break down, the dealer in most cases won’t take them back, but will be happy to let you trade in for another and gets hundreds of dollars more from you.
In fact, it’s very easy to pay thousands of dollars too much for new and used cars. So before buying, look for the April (car) issue of Consumer Reports at the library.

Testing toys for safety

The federal government doesn't test toys for safety, but if a child is hurt the incident must be reported. From the online magazine Slate, here is how toys are tested. Consumer Protection works with the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect consumers from dangerous products.

Jul 1, 2007

Cruising canines

Here are the results of Washington Post tests of devices to keep dogs safe riding in cars.

Department of Justice files action against Kool View Windows for deceptive marketing practices

Lawsuit alleges window retailer of using misleading “100% rebate” scheme to sell its windows. This case was investigated by Consumer Protection at the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection. Consumers may call Consumer Protection at 1-800-422-7128

How the pros protect their identiy

This Wall Street Journal story tells how a former ID theft criminal protects his identity. These days, he "never uses a debit card and writes checks rarely, paying for most everything with a credit card because, he says, credit-card issuers do the most to shield consumers from fraud."

Jun 29, 2007

18% of cellphone owners spammed

About one in six cell phone owners, or 18 percent, report receiving unsolicited text messages from advertisers, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center last year. What can you do if you get these unwanted messages? I found suggestions on this link on a new blog by the Attorney General's office of the state of Washington.

How does your Internet provider rank?

PC World did a survey to find out the opinion of people about what companies provide the best service. PC World says, "ratings reflect survey respondents' satisfaction with the given aspect of service. Source: Survey of 6463 PC World readers and visitors from April 26 to May 10, 2007."

Jun 27, 2007

Checking account debiting scam hits Wisconsin

A Wisconsin banker confirmed to me that this scam has hit Wisconsin: Someone is generating random bank routing and account numbers and trying to deposit one penny to detect active accounts (an automated process). When finding a live account, they begin debiting money. Some consumers have lost at much as $600.

Look over your checking account withdrawals every month. If money has been debited from your account without your permission, ask the bank to reimburse you.

May 9, 2007

States including Wisconsin offer new tool to stop identity theft

Email scam connected to Virginia Tech killings

A new e-mail targets your personal information, using the horrible mass killing at Virginia Tech to get your attention.

Be careful of calls from bill collectors

Identity thieves are getting information by pretending to be collection agencies and calling for collections.
When victims deny the debt, the caller tells them to file a police report and fax it to them. The con artists now have information to steal the victim's identity.

Feb 21, 2007

Privacy protection: Wisconsin consumers can freeze their credit

If you live in Wisconsin you have a right to place a "security freeze" on your credit report. A freeze will prohibit a credit reporting agency from releasing information in your credit report without your express authorization--so imposters can't apply for credit.

Giving the bounce to counterfeit check scams

A new scam is swindling consumers: counterfeit checks that seem legitimate to both bank employees and consumers, but that leave unsuspecting consumers footing the bill. The Federal Trade Commission is issuing a new brochure, Giving the Bounce to Counterfeit Check Scams, which explains common angles used in these scams, the responsibilities of banks and consumers when it comes to counterfeit checks, and advice on how to avoid these increasingly common traps.

Wisconsin's Top 10 consumer complaints

Did you know that anyone in Wisconsin can call themselves a home improvement contractor and start signing contracts with consumers? There are no training requirements and you can even have a long history in criminal and civil courts.

No wonder home improvement is always in
Wisconsin’s Top 10 list of complaints (product categories) and even moved up a notch to #4 last year.