What you need to know to avoid falling victim to top consumer scams

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This is National Consumer Protection Week. (WLS)

This is National Consumer Protection Week.

Several local, state and federal agencies are joining together to offer advice on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

"The numbers are pretty staggering," said Todd Kossow, Federal Trade Commission assistant Midwest regional director.

Identity theft continues to rank in the top five complaints with the FTC. Last year, that number jumped 47 percent, mainly due to tax and wage theft. So the FTC created a new tool to help victims. Identifytheft.gov will build a personal recovery plan for victims of more than 30 distinct types of ID theft

"It enables you to get customized, pre-filled letters and forms that you can use to send to the credit... and even the IRS," said Kossow.

"We are seeing an explosion in terms of the number of false tax returns that are being filed," said Lisa Madigan, Illinois attorney general.

Filing your taxes early is currently the only advice officials can give to help avoid a growing scam of false returns filed to get money from the government. Victims find out their return has been stolen when the IRS tells them taxes were already filed under their Social Security number.

Numerous agencies set up help tables Thursday at the Thompson Center to talk to people directly and hand out information.

"Anyone who does work in your home needs a home repair business license," said Cmsr. Maria Guerra Lapacek, Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department. "Look through our data portal to make sure that license is active and valid."

The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection says their number one complaint continues to be home repair scams. John Evanof lost $1,900 when he pre-paid a contractor to fix his elderly mother's Chicago home.

"He's fraudulently signing the contractor that he says he's working under, and I don't know how he cashed the checks," said Evanof.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION:
CONSUMER INFORMATION: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/
FTC IDENTITY THEFT: https://www.identitytheft.gov/
CONSUMER RESPONSE CENTER: By phone: toll free 877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) 9:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
FIND A CONSUMER AFFAIRS OFFICE https://ribbs.usps.gov/locators/find-cam.cfm
CONSUMER ASSISTANCE http://www.prc.gov/consumer-assistance
Phone: 1-800-ASK-USPS

BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU - CHICAGO AND NORTHERN ILLINOIS:
http://www.bbb.org/chicago/

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL:
CONSUMER COMPLAINT FORMS: http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/
Consumer Fraud Hotlines for Chicago
1-800-386-5438
1-800-964-3013 (TTY)

CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS AND CONSUMER PROTECTION:
BACP: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/bacp/provdrs/consumer.html
BACP CONSUMER HELP RESOURCE GUIDE: http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/consumerevents/consumerselfhelpresourceguide20151123.pdf

City of Chicago Data Portal: https://data.cityofchicago.org/

Refund Anticipation Loans: http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/rals.html
Related Topics:
financeconsumerI-Team
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