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Consumer Protection Week

March 8, 2012, 9:50 PM by Angela Kennecke

Consumer Protection Week

In just the last few weeks here in KELOLAND, we've seen the grandparent scam and secret shopper scam.  But there is a group of people working to stop con artists in their tracks; the Consumer Protection Division of the South Dakota Attorney General's office has recovered millions of dollars for people in the state.
But it's getting harder all the time.

Consumer Protection Week has been around for 14 years, but in that time, thanks to technology, the world has changed drastically and more people are finding themselves targets of sophisticated scams. 

"A lot of times we're signing up for offers online or signing up to look at an opportunity online and they're harvesting that info from you and reselling it," Director of Consumer Protection Delane Smith said.

South Dakota's Consumer Protection Division took more than 17,000 calls and got some 5,000 emails from consumers last year on everything from fraud to theft to scams.  The department was able to get consumers back $3.3 million, but the head of the division says that's not nearly enough.

"The discouraging part of that is even as good as those stats are and you're glad you could do that much for consumers, less than 10 percent of fraud is reported and that's very alarming to us," Smith said.

Smith says these days consumers must be vigilant, not only to report any suspected fraud, but to watch all their statements for charges they didn't make.

"We just had a caller yesterday that said, 'My phone bill has gone up $8 a month for that last three months.'  When we checked into it, he had a ring tone on there he never authorized.  And so it's not just your bank statements you need to be cautious about; it's every kind of open line of credit from your cell phone to your utility bill, your mortgage payment and make sure there are not charges on there from other vendors, charges you didn't authorize," Smith said.

Technology also makes it easy for scammers from out of the country to hide and there's not much authorities can do.

"The way things work now is it's very rare that we will catch somebody after the fact," Smith said.

The biggest way to avoid being the victim of a scam is to never wire money.  Smith says if she could just get that message across, there would be fewer cases of fraud in the state.

Division of Consumer Protection

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