Consumer Protection Fact Sheets

Español Fact Sheets

Our factsheets are informational brochures on specific consumer protection-related topics. Each one is intended to be a starting point for helpful hints and answers to frequently asked questions. 

Choose from the topics below:


Contests & Promotions

Promotions which award prizes might be called contests, sweepstakes, lotteries, raffles, drawings or games. State law covers these types of promotions and regulates prize offers. Fake promotions are also at the heart of a number of scams that regularly target consumers.


Deceptive Advertising

Advertising has a great influence on our purchasing decisions. We are exposed to countless commercial messages every day persuading us to buy brand name products, creating images for us to adopt, and convincing us that we need and want more. Because of this, it is important for us to carefully examine ads to determine exactly what they are saying.


Direct Marketing

Wisconsin has a direct marketing law to protect consumers in telephone, e-mail, fax, mail and door-to-door transactions. This includes sales made in motel and hotel rooms and other places away from the seller’s place of business.


Environmental Advertising

Many consumers look for products that produce little waste or are not harmful to the environment. Manufacturers and retailers have tried to meet this demand by improving and promoting the environmental qualities of their products. Products are often advertised as “recyclable,” “recycled” or “degradable.” Unfortunately, it is not always clear what these claims mean.


Gas-Saving Products

When gas prices go up, it seems like the number of ads for gas-saving products does, too. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase your gas mileage, be on the lookout for gas-saving claims for automotive devices or oil and gas additives. Even for the few gas-saving products that have been found to work, the savings are small.


Junk Mail/Unwanted Calls

Do you feel overwhelmed by the flood of junk mail and telemarketing calls you receive? Experts estimate that Americans receive almost two million tons of junk mail every year, with the average person spending eight full months of his or her life just opening it. Telemarketing calls are time-consuming and irritating.


Price Comparison Advertising

Price comparison advertising is an important feature of today's competitive marketplace. At one time or another, virtually every seller of consumer goods or services makes use of price comparisons, in which current selling prices are compared to former or future prices to show price reductions or savings.


Prize Offers

Some prize offers and sweepstakes that come in the mail are scams. They use attention-getting gimmicks such as fancy certificates, official entry numbers or special envelopes in order to appear legitimate. No matter how they are packaged, these offers will cost you money.


Rebates

Manufacturer’s rebates are offered for everyday purchases like toothpaste and shampoo as well as large ticket items like furnaces or a new car. While the Bureau of Consumer Protection has received consumer complaints about rebates, rebating is a popular budget-saving technique when used properly.


Unwanted Faxes

A telephone facsimile (or “fax”) machine is able to send and receive data (text or images) over a telephone line. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 and the Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit sending unsolicited advertisements, also known as “junk faxes,” to a fax machine. This prohibition applies to fax machines at both businesses and residences.

Contracts

​​A contract is a legally-binding promise or agreement that is made between two or more people. Read through the entire contract, even the fine print, before signing. After you sign, if you do not hold up on your end of the bargain, the other party to the contract can take action against you.


Disaster/Emergency Home Repair Packet

Following extreme storms, flash flooding, or other catastrophic events in a community, many citizens need immediate repairs to their home or property. This can deplete reliable local resources. In the past, we have seen consumers fall victim to fly-by-night contractors who come into an area following a severe storm, perform substandard or no repair work, and depart after being paid. This leaves the consumer with little recourse when problems arise.


Elderly/Disabled Law

Wisconsin law provides additional punishment for those who take advantage of the elderly or disabled. This legislation allows courts to impose additional forfeitures of up to $10,000 for violations of consumer protection laws.


Filing a Consumer Complaint

If you have a problem with a business that you cannot resolve alone, consider filing a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection. We accept complaints from Wisconsin consumers and from out-of-state consumers dealing with businesses in Wisconsin.


Ready Reference Guide

The Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection publishes and updates a “Ready Reference Guide.” The guide includes more than 250 pages of useful consumer contacts. Examples include local, state, and federal agencies, Wisconsin district attorneys, and Better Business Bureau offices.


Small Claims Court

Does someone owe you money? Has your landlord failed to return your security deposit even though you did not damage the rental property? Did you pay for merchandise, but the store never delivered it and will not give a refund? You may want to consider bringing a lawsuit in small claims court. You may not need a lawyer and the rules are simpler than in most court proceedings.

Business Opportunities

Want to “be your own boss,” “work from home,” or just “make extra money?” Then you may be tempted by an advertisement for a business opportunity. Before you pay anything, check out the offer.


Chain Letters

Chain letters promise a big return on a small investment. It could be the promise of unprecedented good luck, recipes or huge financial rewards for a mere $5 investment. Do not waste your money! Chain letters are illegal and they do not work.


Fraud Against Business

​​​​Each year, small businesses are targets of fraudulent or deceptive sales practices. This packet offers tips to help protect your business and contains information about a number of issues including business opportunities, phony billing schemes, vanity publishing, charitable contribution pitches and more.


Get Rich Quick

Perhaps you have seen infomercials touting easy ways to make money in real estate or to get low-interest government loans or grants. Maybe you have seen ads promising “big money” business opportunities or work-at-home schemes. Although these claims sound tempting, they are often too good to be true.


Internet Business Opportunities

​​​​Internet businesses sound like the perfect job: be your own boss, set your own hours and work from the comfort of your house. The truth is, like any business opportunity, it requires a large investment of time and money, and few succeed. There is no safe bet.


Invention Marketing

​​Do you have an idea for a product or service you are sure could bring you riches and fame if people knew about it? Hundreds of inventors and entrepreneurs introduce new ideas to the public each year. Some are highly succes​​sful; others are not. Knowing how to get started is an important first step toward reaching success.


Music Licensing

Businesses that feature performances of copyrighted music – whether performed by live musicians, digital recordings, record, tape player, radio, video or other media – must obtain permission to use the music. Usually, this involves paying a fee.


Seminar Pitch

​Seminar hucksters say they will give you valuable information about how to invest successfully or operate a profitable business. Their “success stories” and testimonials seem to show that anyone who attends the seminar can make money from the investment and business program they are selling. Consumers who invest in these “opportunities” frequently find that the payoff is not as promised, and that they cannot recoup their money.


Wisconsin Do Not Call Registry: Frequently Asked Telemarketer Questions

DATCP registers telephone solicitors making a telephone solicitation to a residential customer in Wisconsin (Wis. Stat. § 100.52 and Wis. Adm. Code ch. ATCP 127, subch. V). A “telephone solicitation” means the unsolicited initiation of a telephone conversation or text message for the purpose of encouraging the recipient of the telephone call or text message to purchase property, goods or services. A “telephone solicitor” means a person, other than a nonprofit organization or an employee or contractor of a nonprofit organization, that employs or contracts with an individual to make a telephone solicitation.

Car Care and Repair Tips

​​​​The best way to avoid auto repair rip-offs is to be prepared. Knowing how your vehicle works and how to identify common car problems is a good beginning. It is also important to know how to select a good technician, the kinds of questions to ask, and your consumer rights.


Car Rentals and Collision Damage

Will you be renting a car during your next vacation or business trip? The nature of rental car liability insurance coverage has confused consumers for many years.


Gas-Saving Products

When gas prices go up, it seems like the number of ads for gas-saving products does, too. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase your gas mileage, be on the lookout for gas-saving claims for automotive devices or oil and gas additives. Even for the few gas-saving products that have been found to work, the savings are small.


Leasing a Vehicle

Leasing is a way to obtain the use of a motor vehicle without actually purchasing it. Your rights and responsibilities, with respect to using the vehicle and making payments, are disclosed in the lease agreement. A lease agreement is complex, so be sure you understand the agreement before you sign it.


Liens

Construction and mechanic's liens are remedies created by statute to ensure payment to contractors, subcontractors, tradesmen, laborers or material suppliers who have improved the property of others. Two of the most common types of liens are home improvement liens and motor vehicle repair liens. These liens provide home improvement contractors with a security interest in the homeowner’s property and auto repair shops with a security interest in the car owner’s vehicle.


Rustproofing

Road salt on icy roads helps keep driving conditions safe for Wisconsin motorists, but what does it do to cars? Concerns about salt damage prompt many consumers to purchase vehicle rustproofing. However, differences in rustproofing contracts can create a blizzard of confusion for consumers.


Surplus Goods and Government Sales

"Government seized cars from $200!  Government foreclosed homes - buy for pennies on the dollar!" While these slogans catch your attention, most items in a surplus auction do not sell for these unbelievably low prices and terms. Government auction services sell goods at or below cost, or fair market value.


Vehicle Purchasing Guide

Buy from a licensed Wisconsin dealer and you are protected by Wisconsin's motor vehicle trade practice law. Dealers follow the law when they advertise, display, and sell vehicles. You will not get the same protection if you buy from a private party.

Charity Requests

If you are considering a request for a donation to a charity, do some research before you give. By finding out as much as you can about the charity, you can avoid fraudsters who try to ta​ke advantage of your generosity.


Law Enforcement Fundraisers

Most citizens hold law enforcement and public safety personnel in high regard and are willing to do what they can to support them, but solicitations, calls and mailings from groups claiming to have an affiliation with police or firefighters should be looked at carefully. These solicitations may have very little to do with local police or fire organizations. 

Child Online Privacy

As a parent, you have control of the personal information companies collect online from your children under the age of 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act gives you tools to do that. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the COPPA Rule. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it must obtain your consent before collection personal information from your child and it must honor your choices about how that information is used.


Computer Disposal

Before donating, selling or discarding your old computer, remove all personal or private information from the hard drive to ensure that it does not become a treasure chest for identity thieves. If you don't properly remove the information, anyone with minimal skills and a basic software program can easily retrieve the data without your permission and do a lot of damage to your identity and your finances.


Creating Strong Passwords

Passwords are the first line of defense in protecting you against cyber criminals (hackers) while conducting online transactions (i.e. banking, paying bills, or making purchases). If hackers gain unauthorized access to your computer, they can view your personal information; impersonate you and send messages to your friends; change your password and block you from accessing your own account; steal your identity; or infect your files with viruses. Therefore, it is vital to pick strong passwords that are different for each of your accounts and to update your passwords regularly.


Imposter Scams

Beware! Imposters are everywhere! When the phone rings, do you know who is calling before you answer or who sent the mail you just opened? When at your computer or on your smart phone, do you know who sent the email in your inbox? Do you know who created that pop-up message on your screen? All of these methods and many more are being used by scammers who are not what they may seem to be.


Internet Business Opportunities

Internet businesses sound like the perfect job: be your own boss, set your own hours and work from the comfort of your house. The truth is, like any business opportunity, it requires a large investment of time and money, and few succeed. There is no safe bet.


Junk Mail/Unwanted Calls

Do you feel overwhelmed by the flood of junk mail and telemarketing calls you receive? Experts estimate that Americans receive almost two million tons of junk mail every year, with the average person spending eight full months of his or her life just opening it. Telemarketing calls are time-consuming and irritating.


Online Auctions

A good way to make sure the product you are buying in an online auction is legitimate and priced appropriately is to do some research. Make sure the product or service you are prepared to buy actually exists and is reasonably priced. Read the fine print of the product’s description so you know exactly what you are buying.


Online Private Party Sale

A private internet sale involves a person offering to sell a product, good or service to another person on a website. To make sure the product you are buying is legitimate and priced appropriately, do some research. Make sure the product or service you are prepared to buy actually exists and is reasonably priced. Read the fine print of the product’s description so you know exactly what you are buying.


Online Safety for Children

For young children: your best approach is to sit with them anytime they are online. Join in on their digital activities, ask questions and learn with them as they grow. For tweens and teens: the most effective strategy is guidance, keep communication open and positive.


Phishing, Vishing, Smishing...

The term “Phishing,” was intentionally coined as a play on “fishing.” Fishing is exactly what the scam artists are doing – throwing you deceptive bait to see if you will bite and give up your personal information. Once they have that, scammers can make unauthorized charges to your bank account or credit card, or even open fraudulent accounts in your name.


Social Networking

Social networking websites are a place for internet users to come together. For example, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos and personal messages. As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them.


Spam

"Spam" is annoying commercial electronic mail and text messages sent, often in bulk, to consumers without the consumer’s prior request or consent. The goal of spam is to catch your eye, promote "get rich quick" schemes and questionable products, or "phish" for personal information.


Telecommunications Laws

DATCP regulates business practices of the telecommunications industry – phone, cable, satellite and internet service for personal use, not business. State law prohibits unfair subscription and billing practices, including undisclosed charges, “cramming or packing”, “slamming” and “negative option” practices.


Text Spam - "Smishing"

With the growing popularity of texting, phishers are using it as another means to gather consumers' personal information. This is known as “smishing.” Text spam is particularly problematic as consumers often have to pay for the incoming messages, messages may have to be opened in order to be deleted, and texting back “stop” can invite more spam.


Wi-Fi Usage Tips

“Wi-Fi” is a radio wave-based technology that allows computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices to connect to the internet or to communicate with one another wirelessly. A number of coffee shops, libraries, airports, hospitals, hotels, fast food restaurants, and other businesses are using Wi-Fi to provide free public access points (or hotspots) that their customers can use to connect wirelessly to the internet. Accessing the internet using a public Wi-Fi hotspot is convenient and often free for mobile users, but hotspots typically are not secure.

College Financial Aid

With tuition bills skyrocketing and room and board costs going through the roof, students and their families are looking for creative ways to finance a college education. Unfortunately, in their efforts to pay the bills, many families fall prey to scholarship and financial aid scams.


Diploma Mills

Have you been tempted by an ad claiming you can "earn a college degree based on life experience?"  Chances are good that the ad is for a "diploma mill," a company that offers "degrees" or "certificates" for a flat fee that require little course work, if any.  If you use a so-called "degree" from a diploma mill to apply for a job or promotion you risk not getting hired, getting fired, and in some cases, prosecution. 

Business Opportunities

Want to “be your own boss,” “work from home,” or just “make extra money?” Then you may be tempted by an advertisement for a business opportunity. Before you pay anything, check out the offer.


Chain Letters

Chain letters promise a big return on a small investment. It could be the promise of unprecedented good luck, recipes or huge financial rewards for a mere $5 investment. Do not waste your money! Chain letters are illegal and they do not work.


Get Rich Quick

Perhaps you have seen infomercials touting easy ways to make money in real estate, or to get low-interest government loans or grants. Maybe you have seen ads promising “big money” business opportunities or work-at-home schemes. Although these claims sound tempting, they are often too good to be true.


Internet Business Opportunities

​​​​Internet businesses sound like the perfect job: be your own boss, set your own hours and work from the comfort of your house. The truth is, like any business opportunity, it requires a large investment of time and money, and few succeed. There is no safe bet.


Job Offers

Classified ads that promise glamorous jobs are very common in newspapers, magazines, email and internet solicitations. Unfortunately, the ads rarely lead to employment, and many of the ads that describe fabulous job opportunities are placed by swindlers interested only in making money.


Modeling

​Could you really be a model or an actor? Maybe your kids have the “right look?" You may be tempted by a "models wanted" ad, but before you sign a contract, learn how to sort out the legitimate modeling agencies from the scams.


Mystery Shopper Scams

Do you love to shop? If so, you may be tempted by unsolicited emails or newspaper ads that claim you can earn a living as a secret or mystery shopper by dining at elegant restaurants, shopping at expensive stores or checking into luxurious hotels. However, marketers who promise lucrative jobs as mystery shoppers often do not deliver on their promises.


Pyramid Schemes

Multi-level or “network” marketing plans are a way of selling goods or services through distributors. The plans typically promise that if you sign up as a distributor, you’ll receive commissions for your sales and those of the people you recruit to become distributors. Not all multi-level marketing plans are legitimate — some are actually pyramid schemes.


Seminar Pitch

​Seminar hucksters say they will give you valuable information about how to invest successfully or operate a profitable business. Their “success stories” and testimonials seem to show that anyone who attends the seminar can make money from the investment and business program they are selling. Consumers who invest in these “opportunities” frequently find that the payoff is not as promised and that they cannot recoup their money.


Work-At-Home

When money is tight, work-at-home opportunities can sound like just the thing to make ends meet. Some work-at-home ads even promise a refund if you do not succeed. But the reality is many of these jobs are scams.

Lodging

The lodging industry is becoming stricter with its reservation rules. Complaints are often the result of lack of disclosure or miscommunication between the business and the consumer. Ask questions when making reservations and request all your reservation information in writing.


Music Licensing

Businesses that feature performances of copyrighted music – whether performed by live musicians, digital recordings, record, tape player, radio, video or other media – must obtain permission to use the music. Usually, this involves paying a fee.


Social Networking

Social networking websites are a place for internet users to come together. For example, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos and personal messages. As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them.


Ticket Refunds

What happens when you purchase tickets to a theater performance, sporting event, or concert months in advance, only to later have the event canceled or rescheduled? Under Wisconsin law, consumers are protected from losing most prepaid admissions fees.

Child Care Safety

Cribs, high chairs, tot locks, gates and more.  To create a safe environment for young children, review the safety tips included in this list.


Child In-Home Injuries

​​Each year more than 2,200 children die from injuries that happen at home. Home injury deaths are caused primarily by airway obstruction, fire, burns, drowning, firearms, falls, choking and poisoning.  Of particular note — most childhood home injuries occur in the kitchen and typically result from burns, poisons and falls.


Child Online Privacy

As a parent, you have control of the personal information companies collect online from your children under the age of 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act gives you tools to do that. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the COPPA Rule. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it must obtain your consent before collection personal information from your child and it must honor your choices about how that information is used.


Child Pageants and Modeling

Every parent thinks their son or daughter is the most beautiful child in the world. And there is nothing more flattering than receiving an invitation to enter a beauty pageant. But it could cost you a pretty penny, so find out what the contest is all about.


Childproofing Your Home

Many children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child safety devices on the market today.


Home Playground Safety

Each year, more than 200,000 children go to U.S. hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with playground equipment. Almost 50,000 of the injuries occur on home playgrounds and 40 percent of those injured are younger than five years old. Most injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment onto the ground. Make your backyard playground a safe place to play!


Online Safety for Children

For young children: your best approach is to sit with them anytime they are online. Join in on their digital activities, ask questions and learn with them as they grow. For tweens and teens: the most effective strategy is guidance, keep communication open and positive.


Phone Scams Targeting Seniors

Consumers lose more than $40 billion a year to telemarketing fraud. Scam artists often target older people, knowing they tend to be trusting, polite toward strangers, are likely to be home, and are likely to have time to talk with callers.


Planning a Funeral (FTC brochure)

When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral — all of which must be made quickly. Many funeral providers offer various “packages” of goods and services for different kinds of funerals. When you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy goods and services separately. You do not have to accept a package that includes items you do not want.


School Safety Checklist

An estimated 2.2 million children ages 14 and under sustain school related injuries each year. Accidents can be prevented if parents are on the lookout for potential hazards.


Social Networking

Social networking websites are a place for internet users to come together. For example, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos and personal messages. As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them.


Toy Safety

Play is essential to a child’s development, but poorly designed or improperly used toys can cause injury or even death. By following some basic guidelines, parents can better ensure that playtime is fun, educational, and safe.

Door-To-Door Food Plans

DATCP has an alert about door-to-door meat salespeople and home food service plans. While some of these food companies provide a valuable service to their customers, a number of them have misled consumers and may sell food at two or three times the price found in local stores.


Weight Reduction Centers

When it comes to weight loss, there is no shortage of options. There are many diet programs to choose from – each claiming to have the perfect plan for slimming you down. Check weight reduction centers or online programs out carefully before you sign a contract or pay any money down, or you may lose money instead of pounds.

Bedding Labeling

Wisconsin is one of about 30 states with some type of bedding labeling law. Wisconsin law requires proper labeling of bedding-related products in order to distinguish between remanufactured bedding made of secondhand material and bedding products manufactured of new material.


Child In-Home Injuries

Each year more than 2,200 children die from injuries that happen at home. Home injury deaths are caused primarily by airway obstruction, fire, burns, drowning, firearms, falls, choking and poisoning.  Of particular note — most childhood home injuries occur in the kitchen and typically result from burns, poisons and falls.


Childproofing Your Home

Many children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child safety devices on the market today.


Drawstrings

Wisconsin Law bans the sale of children’s clothing containing drawstrings in the neck and waist area. Drawstrings can get caught on playground or other equipment, strangling a child. The drawstrings also have the potential of getting caught in vehicle doors, resulting in the child being dragged underneath.


Fitness Centers

There are many fitness center options out there, from expensive, all-inclusive clubs to sport-specialized gyms to bare-bones workout facilities.  When choosing a center, think through your workout goals and consider an all-purpose facility that may allow you to experiment with various classes and types of equipment.


Home Playground Safety

Each year, more than 200,000 children go to U.S. hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with playground equipment. Almost 50,000 of the injuries occur on home playgrounds and 40 percent of those injured are younger than five years old. Most injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment onto the ground. Make your backyard playground a safe place to play!


Medical Billing

If you have trouble understanding your medical bills, you are not alone. Many people are confused about the bills they receive from hospitals, clinics and medical professionals.


Medical Discount Plans

If you are looking for health insurance, make sure you know what you are buying. Dishonest marketers and telemarketers make it sound like they are selling an affordable health insurance plan when they are really selling a medical discount plan. Medical discount plans can be a way to save money on health care costs, but they are not health insurance and aren’t a substitute for it.


Medical Quackery

Sure-cures for medical problems, whether chronic or terminal, drain millions of dollars from consumers’ wallets each year. Today’s snake oil sellers try to convince you they have discovered new solutions to age-old problems. They use national advertising campaigns to deceptively sell “miracles” they cannot produce — potions and products for health, beauty, vitality and happiness.


Prescription Drug Assistance

Emails, ads and websites for companies that guarantee free or low-cost prescription drugs for a hefty fee upfront are scams. You are paying for information and applications that are available for free. And even if the company applies to legitimate programs on your behalf, you still may be turned down for the prescription assistance program.


Tool Safety

Families save money with do-it-yourself home improvement and maintenance, while feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment. But when instructions are ignored and safety is neglected, these projects send over 330,000 people to the emergency room each year.


Toy Safety

Play is essential to a child’s development, but poorly designed or improperly used toys can cause injury or even death. By following some basic guidelines, parents can better ensure that playtime is fun, educational, and safe.


Weight Reduction Centers

When it comes to weight loss, there is no shortage of options. There are many diet programs to choose from – each claiming to have the perfect plan for slimming you down. Check weight reduction centers or online programs out carefully before you sign a contract or pay any money down, or you may lose money instead of pounds.

Basement Waterproofing

A leaky basement is one of the most frustrating problems a homeowner can face. Water problems are often difficult and can be costly to correct, but expensive waterproofing is not always the answer. Services offered to some consumers have been ineffective or inadequate for the correction of basement water problems. Guarantees given by some contractors are vague and confusing.


Change of Ownership (Landlord/Tenant)

As an apartment tenant, you hope for stability with the property you rent. But what are your rights as a tenant if the apartment building changes owners in the middle of your lease?


Disaster/Emergency Home Repair Packet

Following extreme storms, flash flooding, or other catastrophic events in a community, many citizens need immediate repairs to their home or property. This can deplete reliable local resources. In the past, we have seen consumers fall victim to fly-by-night contractors who come into an area following a severe storm, perform substandard or no repair work, and depart after being paid. This leaves the consumer with little recourse when problems arise.


Fair and Trade Show Exhibitors

Most consumers assume that when they attend trade shows, fairs or home improvement seminars that all the businesses are reputable. This can be a very expensive assumption. While many exhibitors are professional and reputable, there may be some who have little experience or skill, or some who intentionally look for potential victims to scam.


Generators

A generator may be able to save food in your refrigerator or freezer during a prolonged outage, let you keep your home office running, or power other essential equipment. Generators can be expensive and noisy. They can also pose serious safety hazards to you and to others, so please follow all safety instructions provided by the manufacturer.


Home Improvement Tips & Right to Cure

Most contractors involved in home improvements are honest, reliable and skilled, but some are not. Wisconsin's home improvement laws protect consumers contracting for improvements including basements, porches, landscaping, sidewalks, floor coverings, heating, air conditioning and more.


Home Improvement Transients

As sure as the summer brings tourists to Wisconsin, it also brings transient (temporary) home improvement workers and scams. These rip-off artists will probably hit your community. Transient contractors specialize in blacktopping driveways, installing lightning rods, painting, roofing and siding. Their work and materials are inferior and they are likely to steal from you.


Interstate Moving

​​As part of your move, a moving company should provide you with a written estimate, an order for service, a bill of lading and an inventory list. Never sign blank paperwork or documents that you do not understand.


Landlord/Tenant Guide

​More than 1.5 million Wisconsin residents live in rental housing.  It is important to both tenants and landlords that rules ensure that these rental transactions are conducted fairly. DATCP's Landlord/Tenant Guide answers commonly asked questions about landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities in simple language.  The Guide is intended to help landlords and tenants avoid common problems and resolve them when they do occur.


Lawn Service Contracts

Lawn care services perform some of the time-consuming and complicated tasks of lawn maintenance. In order to hire these companies, you may have to sign expensive and long-term contracts. It is important to know exactly what you want from a lawn care firm.


Liens

Construction and mechanic's liens are remedies created by statute to ensure payment to contractors, subcontractors, tradesmen, laborers or material suppliers who have improved the property of others. Two of the most common types of liens are home improvement liens and motor vehicle repair liens. These liens provide home improvement contractors with a security interest in the homeowner’s property and auto repair shops with a security interest in the car owner’s vehicle.


Manufactured Home Community

Many people have found that living in a manufactured home community suits their way of life. To ensure the wellbeing ​of these communities in Wisconsin, residents have rights and responsibilities.


Propane Consumer Tips

Propane prices are not regulated under Wisconsin law. In general, the contract between consumer and the retail marketer sets the terms of the agreement. It is in the consumer’s best interest to research options, ask questions, and get everything in writing.


Self-Service Storage

Do you need a place to store your things? A self-service storage facility may be the answer. But before renting, know that you, the lessee, are responsible for everything in your rental unit. This means that unless the rental agreement specifies otherwise, the owner of the facility is not liable under Wisconsin law for damage due to mold, mildew, pests, etc.


Surplus Goods and Government Sales

"Government seized cars from $200!  Government foreclosed homes - buy for pennies on the dollar!" While these slogans catch your attention, most items in a surplus auction do not sell for these unbelievably low prices and terms. Government auction services sell goods at or below cost, or fair market value.


Tenants' Rights & Responsibilities

​​​​​As a tenant in Wisconsin, you have rights and responsibilities that cover a wide range of issues. To avoid problems, it is important to understand these rights and responsibilities.

Identity Theft/Privacy Protection Fact Sheets

DATCP's Bureau of Consumer Protection works with Wisconsinites to educate them on how to protect their identities. The Bureau has taught consumers, businesses and law enforcement agencies about identity theft and fraud prevention. We work with victims of identity theft, helping them take steps to reclaim their identity and restore their credit standing.

Advance-Fee Loans

Advance-fee loan sharks are preying on unwary consumers, taking their money for the promise of a loan or credit and leaving them in hot water. The scam artists often impersonate legitimate lenders to entice consumers into falling for their bogus offer.


Bankruptcy

You want to get your money back for a product or service you were not satisfied with, but the company has gone bankrupt. What can you do?


Chain Letters

Chain letters promise a big return on a small investment. It could be the promise of unprecedented good luck, recipes or huge financial rewards for a mere $5 investment. Do not waste your money! Chain letters are illegal and they do not work.


Check Scams

There are many variations of the fake check scam. It could be someone offering to buy something you advertised, pay you to do work at home, or give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you have supposedly won.  If you cash a fake check and transfer a portion to another party, you will be on the hook for the total amount cashed (plus any associated fees) when the bank discovers the forgery.


College Financial Aid

With tuition bills skyrocketing and room and board costs going through the roof, students and their families are looking for creative ways to finance a college education. Unfortunately, in their efforts to pay the bills, many families fall prey to scholarship and financial aid scams.


Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: Lost/Stolen

Many people find it easy and convenient to use credit cards and ATM or debit cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) offer procedures for you to follow if your cards are lost or stolen.


Credit Basics

Credit allows consumers to use and enjoy purchases before they have been paid for in full. It comes in many shapes and forms including credit cards, auto loans and home mortgages. Credit cards come with many perks including frequent flyer miles and point schemes; are convenient to carry; and, when used carefully, are safer than cash. But keep in mind that there are some drawbacks to using credit.


Credit Card Chargebacks

As a credit card user, you have ce​​rtain rights under state and federal law which allow you to obtain a refund in the form of a chargeback on your credit card in certain situations. There are two reasons recognized by federal law by which you can dispute making a payment on your credit card billing statement: problems with billing errors or a reason called “claims and defenses.”


Credit Card Guide and Usage

​​There are many types of credit cards with various features, but there is no one best credit card. It is important to shop around and choose the right credit card to suit your needs.


Credit Card Offers

It can be more convenient to use credit cards than cash or checks, especially for large purchases. But companies that offer to help you get a credit card may actually intend to steal your money.


Credit/Debit Card Blocking

When you use a debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump, for a restaurant meal, to check into a hotel or to rent a car, the merchant contacts the card issuer electronically with the estimated cost. If the card issuer approves the transaction, your available line of credit or checking account balance is reduced by this amount. This is called a “block” or “pre-authorization.”


Credit Repair

You see credit repair service offerings in newspapers, mail flyers, on TV or the internet, and hear them on the radio or phone calls. The fact is there is no quick fix for cre​ditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately. It takes time, a conscious effort, and​ sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.


Credit Report Request Form

To obtain a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call (877) 322-8228, or download and complete the form linked above and submit it by mail (instructions are on the form).


Credit Report Security Freeze

Wisconsin consumers have the right to place a security freeze on their credit reports. Parents and legal guardians can also place a security freeze on the credit report of a child or other protected individual. A security freeze can help protect from identity theft.


Debit Scams

Fraudulent telemarketers have found yet another way to steal your money, this time from your checking account. A debit card is an electronic card issued by a bank which allows bank clients access to their checking account to withdraw cash or pay for goods and services. Consumers across the country are complaining about unauthorized debits from their checking accounts.


Debt Advice

If you or someone you know is in financial hot water, consider these options: realistic budgeting, credit counseling from a reputable organization, debt consolidation or bankruptcy. Debt negotiation is yet another option. How do you know which will work best for you? It depends on your level of debt, your level of discipline and your prospects for the future.


Debt Collection

Being contacted by someone who wants to collect a debt can be upsetting. This fact sheet explains some of your rights and responsibilities under the law and answers some frequently asked questions about debt collection.


Equal Credit Opportunity

People use credit to pay for education or a house, a remodeling job or a car, or to finance a loan to keep their business operating. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or because you get public assistance. Creditors may ask you for most of this information in certain situations, but they may not use it when deciding whether to give you credit or when setting the terms of your credit.


Fair Credit Billing

​​Have you ever been billed for merchandise you returned or never received? Has your credit card company ever charged you twice for the same item or failed to credit a payment to your account? One of the benefits of using credit and charge cards is that they come with built-in consumer protection under a federal law called the Fair Credit Billing Act. This law gives you the right to dispute fraudulent and unfair credit charges.


Foreign Money Scams

People in Wisconsin are being targeted to invest in complicated bank fraud schemes. These scams originate from all over the world – from places such as Nigeria, Switzerland, Canada and Jamaica to name a few.


Free Credit Reports

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each nationwide consumer reporting company to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA also promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s consumer reporting companies.


Government Grant Scams

Grant pitches offering “money for nothing” are usually scams, whether you see them in your local paper or a national magazine, or hear about them on the phone. Grant scammers generally follow a script: they congratulate you on your eligibility, then ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account” or submit a one-time “processing fee.” You will never see the grant they promise — they will disappear with your money.


Grandparent Scams

Thousands of senior citizens are victimized every year by "family emergency scams," better known as “grandparent scams." With this scam, scammers contact elderly people and impersonate a family member (typically a grandchild) or friend desperately in need of money due to a supposed emergency and convince the elderly person to send money quickly.


Holiday Debt

Overindulgence is often a popular theme during the holiday season – too much food, too much drink and too much spending. Overspending at the holidays can easily push you into serious and troublesome financial situations, or aggravate existing debt problems.


Identity Theft Consumer Tips

Any combination of basic personal details (name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, etc.) is all it takes for an identity thief to misuse your identity. Learn more about the basics of safeguarding your information.


Imposter Scams

Beware! Imposters are everywhere! When the phone rings, do you know who is calling before you answer or who sent the mail you just opened? When at your computer or on your smart phone, do you know who sent the email in your inbox? Do you know who created that pop-up message on your screen? All of these methods and many more are being used by scammers who are not what they may seem to be.


Investment Fraud

Whether you have a little money or a lot, you may be looking for ways to “put your money to work” and earn more. But your money could be lost if you get caught in an investment scam.


Law Enforcement Fundraisers

Most citizens hold law enforcement and public safety personnel in high regard and are willing to do what they can to support them, but solicitations, calls and mailings from groups claiming to have an affiliation with police or firefighters should be looked at carefully. These solicitations may have very little to do with local police or fire organizations.


Liens

Construction and mechanic's liens are remedies created by statute to ensure payment to contractors, subcontractors, tradesmen, laborers or material suppliers who have improved the property of others. Two of the most common types of liens are home improvement liens and motor vehicle repair liens. These liens provide home improvement contractors with a security interest in the homeowner’s property and auto repair shops with a security interest in the car owner’s vehicle.


Living Trusts

​​​​​​Many people worry that a large portion of their life savings will go towards taxes when they die or that their assets will be tied up in probate. The living trust has been marketed as an estate-planning device that helps people avoid probate problems. While a living trust can be a valuable financial planning tool for some people, DATCP cautions consumers about misleading claims or exaggerations.


Lottery/Contest/Sweepstakes Scams

Scam operators – often based outside the U.S. – are using the telephone, email, text messages and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe. It is a violation of federal law to play a foreign lottery.


Money Scams

Two basics of money scams: 
1.) Wiring money is like sending cash; once it is sent, you cannot get it back. Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it is nearly impossible to reverse or track the money.

2.) Never agree to deposit a check from someone you do not know and then wire money back.


Mortgage Assistance Relief Scams

The possibility of losing your home to foreclosure can be terrifying. The reality that scam artists are preying on desperate homeowners is equally frightening. Some companies say they can change your loan to reduce your monthly mortgage payment or take other steps to save your home. Others claim that nearly all of their customers get successful results and even offer a money-back guarantee. Unfortunately, many companies use half-truths and even outright lies to sell their services.


Phishing, Vishing, Smishing...

The term “Phishing,” was intentionally coined as a play on “fishing.” Fishing is exactly what the scam artists are doing – throwing you deceptive bait to see if you will bite and give up your personal information. Once they have that, scammers can make unauthorized charges to your bank account or credit card, or even open fraudulent accounts in your name.


Prize Offers

Some prize offers and sweepstakes that come in the mail are scams. They use attention-getting gimmicks such as fancy certificates, official entry numbers or special envelopes in order to appear legitimate. No matter how they are packaged, these offers will cost you money.


Pyramid Schemes

Multi-level or “network” marketing plans are a way of selling goods or services through distributors. The plans typically promise that if you sign up as a distributor, you’ll receive commissions for your sales and those of the people you recruit to become distributors. Not all multi-level marketing plans are legitimate — some are actually pyramid schemes.


Robocalls

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it is a robocall. Robocalls are annoying phone calls that come at all hours of the day or night. Robocalls use both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered pre-recorded message.


Tax Refund Loans

Promises of “Instant Refunds” and “Quick Money” might make you want to rush to your nearest tax preparation service to get your refund on the spot. Unfortunately, many of these fast “refunds” are actually loans called “refund anticipation loans” (RAL’s). When you receive a RAL, your tax preparer lends you the amount of your tax refund less the cost of interest and fees for the loan.


Ten Tips to Avoid Fraud

Crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. Here are some practical tips to help you stay a step ahead.


Text Spam - "Smishing"

With the growing popularity of texting, phishers are using it as another means to gather consumers' personal information. This is known as “smishing.” Text spam is particularly problematic as consumers often have to pay for the incoming messages, messages may have to be opened in order to be deleted, and texting back “stop” can invite more spam.


Unclaimed Property

After one to five years of inactivity, Wisconsin businesses are required to turn over all unclaimed money, stock and safe deposit box contents to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR). This process relieves businesses from the expense and liability associated with carrying unclaimed property on their financial records. Most importantly, the process benefits Wisconsin residents because DOR makes an effort to reunite all rightful owners with their unclaimed property.


Wiring Money and Prepaid Money Cards

Money transfer services can be useful when sending funds to someone you know and trust – but wiring money can be incredibly risky when dealing with a stranger. Same goes for prepaid money cards. Scammers insist on the use of money transfers and prepaid cards because it is like sending cash — they get the money quickly and you cannot get it back. 

Senior Guide

For seniors and their caregivers, DATCP's "Senior Guide" has long been a trusted source of information on consumer issues and scams that the state’s elderly residents face. The Senior Guide contains more than 50 pages of information to help Wisconsin seniors through difficult consumer issues or to help them identify scams.


Elderly/Disabled Law

Wisconsin law provides additional punishment for those who take advantage of the elderly or disabled. This legislation allows courts to impose additional forfeitures of up to $10,000 for violations of consumer protection laws.


Grandparent Scams

Thousands of senior citizens are victimized every year by "family emergency scams," better known as “grandparent scams." With this scam, scammers contact elderly people and impersonate a family member (typically a grandchild) or friend desperately in need of money due to a supposed emergency and convince the elderly person to send money quickly.


Home Safety Checklists

Falls in and around the home are a top cause of injuries to older adults. Older adults also are at greater risk than others of dying in a house fire. Many injuries result from hazards that are easy to overlook, but also easy to fix. By spotting these hazards and taking simple steps to correct them, you can prevent injuries to yourself or visitors to your home.


Living Trusts

​​​​​​Many people worry that a large portion of their life savings will go towards taxes when they die or that their assets will be tied up in probate. The living trust has been marketed as an estate-planning device that helps people avoid probate problems. While a living trust can be a valuable financial planning tool for some people, DATCP cautions consumers about misleading claims or exaggerations.


Phone Scams Targeting Seniors

Consumers lose more than $40 billion a year to telemarketing fraud.  Scam artists often target older people, knowing they tend to be trusting, polite toward strangers, are likely to be home, and are likely to have time to talk with callers.


Planning a Funeral (FTC brochure)

When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral — all of which must be made quickly. Many funeral providers offer various “packages” of goods and services for different kinds of funerals. When you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy goods and services separately. You do not have to accept a package that includes items you do not want.

Basement Waterproofing

A leaky basement is one of the most frustrating problems a homeowner can face. Water problems are often difficult and can be costly to correct, but expensive waterproofing is not always the answer. Services offered to some consumers have been ineffective or inadequate for the correction of basement water problems. Guarantees given by some contractors are vague and confusing.


Dating Services

​​If you are looking for friendship or companionship, you may decide to seek the assistance of a dating service to meet other people. Check dating services carefully before yo​​u sign a contract or pay any money down.


Door-To-Door Food Plans

DATCP has an alert about door-to-door meat salespeople and home food service plans. While some of these food companies provide a valuable service to their customers, a number of them have misled consumers and may sell food at two or three times the price found in local stores.


Fitness Centers

There are many fitness center options out there, from expensive, all-inclusive clubs to sport-specialized gyms to bare-bones workout facilities.  When choosing a center, think through your workout goals and consider an all-purpose facility that may allow you to experiment with various classes and types of equipment.


Hiring a Locksmith

Regardless of whether you are locked out of your car or home, you need new locks installed, or you require other security work, there are some important tips to follow for hiring a reputable locksmith.


Home Improvement Tips & Right to Cure

Most contractors involved in home improvements are honest, reliable and skilled, but some are not. Wisconsin's home improvement laws protect consumers contracting for improvements including basements, porches, landscaping, sidewalks, floor coverings, heating, air conditioning and more.


Immigration Consultants

Immigration consultants specialize in assisting consumers with immigration law matters. They are not attorneys and are usually not supervised by attorneys. Because these laws are complicated, unscrupulous immigration consultants can take advantage of vulnerable immigrants.


Interstate Moving

​​As part of your move, a moving company should provide you with a written estimate, an order for service, a bill of lading and an inventory list. Never sign blank paperwork or documents that you do not understand.


Lawn Service Contracts

Lawn care services perform some of the time-consuming and complicated tasks of lawn maintenance. In order to hire these companies, you may have to sign expensive and long-term contracts. It is important to know exactly what you want from a lawn care firm.


Liens

Construction and mechanic's liens are remedies created by statute to ensure payment to contractors, subcontractors, tradesmen, laborers or material suppliers who have improved the property of others. Two of the most common types of liens are home improvement liens and motor vehicle repair liens. These liens provide home improvement contractors with a security interest in the homeowner’s property, and auto repair shops with a security interest in the car owner’s vehicle.


Logging Timber

​​One of Wisconsin’s most valuable resources is often found on private property: standing timber lots. Unfortunately, timber and woodlot owners often do not know the value of their standing timber and problems arise after agreements are made with​ loggers.


Planning a Funeral (FTC brochure)

When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral — all of which must be made quickly. Many funeral providers offer various “packages” of goods and services for different kinds of funerals. When you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy goods and services separately. You do not have to accept a package that includes items you do not want.


Propane Consumer Tips

Propane prices are not regulated under Wisconsin law. In general, the contract between consumer and the retail marketer sets the terms of the agreement. It is in the consumer’s best interest to research options, ask questions and get everything in writing.


Public Record Scams

​​Wisconsin’s Public Record Solicitation Law protects consumers from solicitations fo​​​r public records by requiring disclosures and limiting the amount of any fee being charged. The law makes it easier for Wisconsin consumers to identify these “official” or “governmental” looking mailings as sales solicitations, not official documents.


Repair Shops

Ever had a problem getting items like kitchen appliances, snow blowers, camera equipment, shoes or furniture fixed? If so, you are not alone. Many consumer complaints deal with unsatisfactory work, or misdiagnosis of the problem.  In Wisconsin, there are no specific laws that regulate repair shops. To avoid problems, consumers should do some homework first.


Self-Service Storage

Do you need a place to store your things? A self-service storage facility may be the answer. But before renting, know that you, the lessee, are responsible for everything in your rental unit. This means that unless the rental agreement specifies otherwise, the owner of the facility is not liable under Wisconsin law for damage due to mold, mildew, pests, etc.


Vanity Publishing

If dreams of poetic grandeur are leading you up the steps of a vanity publishing house, stop and make sure you know what is inside. Vanity, or subsidy, publishers catch unsuspecting authors off guard with glorified ads in newspapers and magazines that promise huge profits. These companies publish almost anything they receive because they know their profit is assured...the authors take all the monetary risks.


Warehouse Storage

When storing your property, including boats, pontoons, RV’s and motorcycles, protection from theft or damage should be your primary concern. Consumers should ask storage operators if they are licensed by DATCP as Public Warehouse Keepers. Most dealerships and marinas are licensed and permits are prominently posted. Outdoor storage areas and a farmer’s barn may also be required to be licensed.


Wedding Catastrophes

Weddings are supposed to be happy events. However, if you do not plan carefully, your happy event can become a catastrophe. Some keys to helping avoid wedding catastrophes are to plan ahead, deal with reputable businesses, get everything in writing, and understand what happens if you cancel services.


Weight Reduction Centers

When it comes to weight loss, there is no shortage of options. There are many diet programs to choose from – each claiming to have the perfect plan for slimming you down. Check weight reduction centers or online programs out carefully before you sign a contract or pay any money down, or you may lose money instead of pounds.

Bedding Labeling

Wisconsin is one of about 30 states with some type of bedding labeling law. Wisconsin law requires proper labeling of bedding-related products in order to distinguish between remanufactured bedding made of secondhand material and bedding products manufactured of new material.


Buying Clubs

Buying clubs attract consumers by advertising that members can buy goods at wholesale prices or at reduced rates from the manufacturer’s suggested list price. Members are usually required to pay a membership fee (and in some cases, an initiation fee) to join, which may range from a nominal price to hundreds of dollars.


Deceptive Advertising

Advertising has a great influence on our purchasing decisions. We are exposed to countless commercial messages every day persuading us to buy brand name products, creating images for us to adopt, and convincing us that we need and want more. Because of this, it is important for us to carefully examine ads to determine exactly what they are saying.


Direct Marketing

Wisconsin has a direct marketing law to protect consumers in telephone, e-mail, fax, mail and door-to-door transactions. This includes sales made in motel and hotel rooms and other places away from the seller’s place of business.


Fair and Trade Show Exhibitors

Most consumers assume that when they attend trade shows, fairs or home improvement seminars that all the businesses are reputable. This can be a very expensive assumption. While many exhibitors are professional and reputable, there may be some who have little experience or skill, or some who intentionally look for potential victims to scam.


Gas-Saving Products

When gas prices go up, it seems like the number of ads for gas-saving products does, too. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase your gas mileage, be on the lookout for gas-saving claims for automotive devices or oil and gas additives. Even for the few gas-saving products that have been found to work, the savings are small.


Gift Cards

Gift cards are the modern day replacement of gift certificates. A gift card usually resembles a credit card and may display a specific theme. Some gift cards can be reloaded and used multiple times. Although Wisconsin does not regulate the sale of gift cards, the federal government does.


Holiday Debt

Overindulgence is often a popular theme during the holiday season – too much food, too much drink and too much spending. Overspending at the holidays can easily push you into serious and troublesome financial situations, or aggravate existing debt problems.


In-Home Sales Parties

​​​In-home sales parties continue to grow in popularity. They vary from product to product and each company targets different ages and interests. These events can be a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, but there are things you should be aware of if you plan on attending or hosting an in-home sales party.


Junk Mail/Unwanted Calls

Do you feel overwhelmed by the flood of junk mail and telemarketing calls you receive? Experts estimate that Americans receive almost two million tons of junk mail every year, with the average person spending eight full months of his or her life just opening it. Telemarketing calls are time-consuming and irritating.


Magazine Sales

​​Thousands of consumers buy magazine subscriptions from legitimate sellers every year. Unfortunately, many consumers report problems related to magazine purchases, ranging from unfair selling practices to billing errors to scams.


Mail Order/Unordered Merchandise

​​The Wisconsin Mail Order Law helps consumers deal with a major mail order problem: failure to promptly deliver prepaid merchandise. The law covers any personal order where the seller solicits and accepts payment without any face-to-face contact.


Money Scams

Two basics of money scams: 
1.) Wiring money is like sending cash; once it is sent, you cannot get it back. Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it is nearly impossible to reverse or track the money.
2.) Never agree to deposit a check from someone you do not know and then wire money back.


Mystery Shopper Scams

Do you love to shop? If so, you may be tempted by unsolicited emails or newspaper ads that claim you can earn a living as a secret or mystery shopper by dining at elegant restaurants, shopping at expensive stores or checking into luxurious hotels. However, marketers who promise lucrative jobs as mystery shoppers often do not deliver on their promises.


Negative Option Plans

​​​​A negative option is a marketing plan that basically states, “We will keep sending you our product or providing you with our service until you tell us to stop.” With a negative option plan, it is the responsibility of the consumer, not the seller, to cancel a contract or order.


Online Auctions

​​​Thinking of bidding in an online auction, or selling some of your stuff? Internet auctions are a great resource for shoppers and sellers, but you need to watch out for some pitfalls.


Online Private Party Sale

A private internet sale involves a person offering to sell a product, good or service to another person on a website. To make sure the product you are buying is legitimate and priced appropriately, do some research. Make sure the product or service you are prepared to buy actually exists and is reasonably priced. Read the fine print of the product’s description so you know exactly what you are buying.


Rebates

Manufacturer’s rebates are offered for everyday purchases like toothpaste and shampoo as well as large ticket items like furnaces or a new car. While the Bureau of Consumer Protection has received many consumer complaints about rebates, rebating is a popular budget-saving technique when used properly.


Rent-To-Own

Are you thinking of buying a new TV, refrigerator, couch or other “big-ticket” item? You may be considering the rent-to-own option. Rent-to-own ads are very inviting with low weekly or monthly payments, no credit checks and no down payments. DATCP urges consumers to first call the company to see what kind of terms are offered, then compare those terms to other options.


Return/Refund Policy

Misunderstandings about refund policies are common. Many problems could be prevented if consumers had a clear understanding of a business’ policy before paying a deposit or making a purchase. When evaluating a store’s return policy, ask for it in writing — do not just take the word of an employee.


Shopping Tips

Sales, refunds/returns, credit cards, loan offers, layaway, e-commerce and more — DATCP has one fact sheet to address all things shopping.


Surplus Goods and Government Sales

"Government seized cars from $200!  Government foreclosed homes - buy for pennies on the dollar!" While these slogans catch your attention, most items in a surplus auction do not sell for these unbelievably low prices and terms. Government auction services sell goods at or below cost, or fair market value.


Three-Day Right to Cancel

A provision of the Wisconsin Consumer Act grants Wisconsin consumers the right to cancel certain consumer transactions within three business days. In these transactions, merchants are required to provide the consumer with a notice that informs them that they have a right to cancel. In order to cancel, consumers must mail their cancellation request within three business days of receiving the “Customers Right to Cancel” notice from the seller.


Toy Ads on TV

Toys advertised on television can be an important part of a child’s “wish list” for birthdays or holidays. And television advertisements are an important source of information about toys. After all, they show children new products and help illustrate what these products can do. But some children, especially young ones, may have trouble separating fact from fantasy in ads – figuring out how a toy works outside its imaginary setting or determining whether toy parts shown are sold separately.


Warranties

Many consumers ask what the difference is between a “warranty” and a “guarantee.” There is no difference between the terms, but there can be a big difference between the warranties of two similar products manufactured by different firms.

Cable/Satellite TV Subscriber Rights

Signing up for cable or satellite TV service can be confusing – you should know your rights as a subscriber.


Cell Phones

Cellular telephones are a source of convenience and safety. They are also evolving into versatile, powerful devices that can make life easier, but not without costs and potential risks. Get all the facts about a cellular phone and the service contract that comes with it before signing anything.


Cramming and Slamming

Cramming is the illegal act of placing unauthorized charges on your wireline, wireless or bundled services telephone bill. "Slamming" is the illegal practice of switching a consumer's traditional wireline telephone company for local, local toll, or long distance service without permission.


International Phone Number Scam

Be cautious when calling an unfamiliar telephone number – it could be a costly international telephone call. Consumers are lured into calling international telephone numbers through ads and other promotions. You could end up with a hefty phone bill if you call an international telephone number because each country sets its own telephone rates and there is no limit to the per-minute charge.


Spam

"Spam" is annoying commercial electronic mail and text messages sent, often in bulk, to consumers without the consumer’s prior request or consent. The goal of spam is to catch your eye, promote "get rich quick" schemes and questionable products, or "phish" for personal information.


Telecommunications Laws

DATCP regulates business practices of the telecommunications industry – phone, cable, satellite and internet service for personal use, not business. State law prohibits unfair subscription and billing practices, including undisclosed charges, “cramming or packing”, “slamming” and “negative option” practices.


Text Spam - "Smishing"

With the growing popularity of texting, phishers are using it as another means to gather consumers' personal information. This is known as “smishing.” Text spam is particularly problematic as consumers often have to pay for the incoming messages, messages may have to be opened in order to be deleted, and texting back “stop” can invite more spam.


Unwanted Faxes

A telephone facsimile (or “fax”) machine is able to send and receive data (text or images) over a telephone line. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 and the Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit sending unsolicited advertisements, also known as “junk faxes,” to a fax machine. This prohibition applies to fax machines at both businesses and residences.

Direct Marketing

Wisconsin has a direct marketing law to protect consumers in telephone, e-mail, fax, mail and door-to-door transactions. This includes sales made in motel and hotel rooms and other places away from the seller’s place of business.


Imposter Scams

Beware! Imposters are everywhere! When the phone rings, do you know who is calling before you answer or who sent the mail you just opened? When at your computer or on your smart phone, do you know who sent the email in your inbox? Do you know who created that pop-up message on your screen? All of these methods and many more are being used by scammers who are not what they may seem to be.


Junk Mail/Unwanted Calls

Do you feel overwhelmed by the flood of junk mail and telemarketing calls you receive? Experts estimate that Americans receive almost two million tons of junk mail every year, with the average person spending eight full months of his or her life just opening it. Telemarketing calls are time-consuming and irritating.


Phishing, Vishing, Smishing...

The term “Phishing,” was intentionally coined as a play on “fishing.” Fishing is exactly what the scam artists are doing – throwing you deceptive bait to see if you will bite and give up your personal information. Once they have that, scammers can make unauthorized charges to your bank account or credit card, or even open fraudulent accounts in your name.


Phone Scams Targeting Seniors

Consumers lose more than $40 billion a year to telemarketing fraud.  Scam artists often target older people, knowing they tend to be trusting, polite toward strangers, are likely to be home, and are likely to have time to talk with callers.


Robocalls

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it is a robocall. Robocalls are annoying phone calls that come at all hours of the day or night. Robocalls use both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered pre-recorded message.


Stop Telemarketers

​​​​The telephone rings or you get a text notification on your cell phone interrupting your dinner, your favorite TV program, your nap. You rush to answer and – it is a telemarketer! Tired of these interruptions? Sign up on the Wisconsin Do Not Call Registry. It is a free service available to residential landline and mobile telephone customers in Wisconsin.


Telemarketing

Telemarketers may call or text only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They must tell you that they are selling something – and who is doing the selling – before they make their pitch. You can stop unwanted calls and texts from telemarketers by telling them not to call back. If they do, they are breaking the law. Report them to the Bureau of Consumer Protection.


Ten Telemarketing Tips

Telemarketers, whether legitimate or fraudulent, have been an issue for consumers for years. Unethical telemarketers call every day trying to sell you something, get your personal information, charge your credit card or take your money. Protect yourself by understanding how they get your phone number and learning ways to keep from accidentally giving out your personal information.


Text Spam - "Smishing"

With the growing popularity of texting, phishers are using it as another means to gather consumers' personal information. This is known as “smishing.” Text spam is particularly problematic as consumers often have to pay for the incoming messages, messages may have to be opened in order to be deleted, and texting back “stop” can invite more spam.


Wisconsin Do Not Call Registry: Frequently Asked Consumer Questions

The Wisconsin Do Not Call Registry gives you an opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls you receive. Once you register your home or cell phone number, telemarketers covered by the Registry have up to 31 days from the date you register to stop calling you. Any business – whether located inside or outside of Wisconsin – soliciting Wisconsin residents by telephone call or text message, must obtain a copy of the registry and delete the consumers’ names from its own calling list.


Wisconsin Do Not Call Registry: Frequently Asked Telemarketer Questions

DATCP registers telephone solicitors making a telephone solicitation to a residential customer in Wisconsin (Wis. Stat. § 100.52 and Wis. Adm. Code ch. ATCP 127, subch. V). A “telephone solicitation” means the unsolicited initiation of a telephone conversation or text message for the purpose of encouraging the recipient of the telephone call or text message to purchase property, goods or services. A “telephone solicitor” means a person, other than a nonprofit organization or an employee or contractor of a nonprofit organization, that employs or contracts with an individual to make a telephone solicitation.

Car Rental and Collision Damage

Will you be renting a car during your next vacation or business trip? The nature of rental car liability insurance coverage has confused consumers for many years.


Lodging

The lodging industry is becoming stricter with its reservation rules. Complaints are often the result of lack of disclosure or miscommunication between the business and the consumer. Ask questions when making reservations and request all your reservation information in writing.


Timeshares & Resellers

Planning your next vacation? Perhaps timesharing – the use of a vacation home or campground for a limited, preplanned time – is on your list of options. Timesharing may be a popular way to take a vacation, but problems can occur.


Travel Tips

Whether you are off to see the sights, ski the slopes, or sunbathe on the sand, it pays to be an informed travel shopper. The Bureau of Consumer Protection offers a number of valuable tips to help you avoid vacation frustration.


Vacation Offers

Vacation promotions offering trips to tropical paradises, exotic cruises, gambling trips, or exciting locations are made through mailings, telephone calls, media advertisements, websites, or emails. Unfortunately, consumers usually find out the hard way that they have been provided a vacation certificate or voucher rather than a free vacation.


Vacation Protection Tips

Planning your next vacation? Perhaps timesharing – the use of a vacation home or campground for a limited, preplanned time – is on your list of options. Timesharing may be a popular way to take a vacation, but problems can occur.

Federal Trade Commission Business Resources


Fraud Against Business

​​​​Each year, small businesses are targets of fraudulent or deceptive sales practices. This packet offers tips to help protect your business and contains information about a number of issues including business opportunities, phony billing schemes, vanity publishing, charitable contribution pitches and more.


Pawnbroker Application Forms

Download as PDF     Download as Word


Pawnbroker Property Transaction Record

Download as PDF     Download as Word


Telephone Solicitor Registration Packet

DATCP registers telephone solicitors who initiate a telephone conversation or text message to Wisconsin residents for the purpose of encouraging the recipient of the telephone call or text message to purchase property, goods or services. A telephone solicitor is a person or business, other than a nonprofit organization, that employs or contracts with an individual to make a telephone solicitation. The registration year begins December 1 and ends November 30. Enclosed in the PDF packet below is a registration form, a FAQ fact sheet and a return envelope for the registration.

2017-2018 Telephone Solicitor Registration Packet

2018-2019 Telephone Solicitor Registration Packet


Unwanted Faxes

A telephone facsimile (or “fax”) machine is able to send and receive data (text or images) over a telephone line. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 and the Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit sending unsolicited advertisements, also known as “junk faxes,” to a fax machine. This prohibition applies to fax machines at both businesses and residences.


Wisconsin Do Not Call Registry: Frequently Asked Telemarketer Questions

DATCP registers telephone solicitors making a telephone solicitation to a residential customer in Wisconsin (Wis. Stat. § 100.52 and Wis. Adm. Code ch. ATCP 127, subch. V). A “telephone solicitation” means the unsolicited initiation of a telephone conversation or text message for the purpose of encouraging the recipient of the telephone call or text message to purchase property, goods or services. A “telephone solicitor” means a person, other than a nonprofit organization or an employee or contractor of a nonprofit organization, that employs or contracts with an individual to make a telephone solicitation.