Beware of Scams Offering Government Aid

By State Senator Sheila Harsdorf

We all know the feeling of opening up our mailboxes to find a stack of unwanted junk mail.  While these solicitations are often just annoyances and are sent to the recycling bin or trash can, some are dangerous schemes to obtain money from those that receive them. 

Many of these solicitations take advantage of our challenging economy and offer promises to identify government aid, secure advances on income tax refunds, or provide mortgage assistance.  Increasingly, these mailings do not have identifying information or are designed to look like they come from a government agency.  Others have vague sounding names with only post office boxes for contact information.

I have personally received mail in recent weeks offering help in applying for government programs and in receiving student financial aid.  After contacting the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), I was informed that both of these solicitations are common scams used to trick individuals into paying for services that don’t exist or are otherwise free.

Consumers are cautioned to carefully review offers that request money before services are provided or that demand personal financial information.  DATCP is available to help separate the legitimate offers from fraudulent ones, and the Department encourages citizens to notify the state when they witness questionable practices.

If you receive a solicitation and want to determine if it is legitimate, please contact DATCP by calling the consumer protection hotline at 800-422-7128 or by e-mailing DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov.  Complaints may also be filed online through DATCP’s website at http://datcp.wi.gov/

Additionally, please feel free to contact me if you need assistance in regards to a questionable mailing.  You can reach me by calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745 or sending me an e-mail at Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.

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