MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) — The Better Business Bureau had a busy year in 2019.
The Wisconsin BBB is releasing information about the last year that can help consumers practice safer spending in 2020. The BBB says overall, more consumers are turning to them to vet and review businesses.
In 2019, the agency processed more than 10,000 consumer complaints. That’s a 15% spike over last year. About 8 out of 10 of the companies responded to those complaints.
More consumers are submitting reviews about Wisconsin businesses. The BBB verified nearly 9,000 reviews last year, a 21% increase from 2018. “On some of those other competitor sites you could be reading reviews that are fake, you could be reading reviews that are illegitimate, you could be reading reviews where the business owner purchased five star reviews to make their business look better,” said Tiffany Schultz, BBB Southwest Wisconsin Regional Director.
A big part of what the agency does is track scams and the agency relies heavily on consumers to speaking up when they’ve been scammed or they think someone is attempting to scam them. In 2019, Wisconsinites submitted more than 4,200 reports about scams.
These reports are crucial to tracking down these scammers and protecting consumers. Verona Business owner Arlene DeForest says she almost fell victim to a recent scam. A company she had never heard sent her an email telling her she won an award. Then they demanded $50 to pay for it.
“In order to get the plaque and everything I had to give money and I thought well if I won an award, why am I having to pay for it,” said DeForest, Co-owner of Moments to Cherish Bridals in Verona.
DeForest says she was suspicious because her brother has been scammed out of a lot of cash in the past. She immediately notified the BBB. Schultz encourages consumers to do their research when looking to buy a product or service and always think twice when someone tries to get you to send money.
Schultz is also breaking down a few other big scams the BBB is seeing. One includes a scam involving social security numbers where consumers receive a phone call or email telling them their social security number has been compromised and that a fee would be required to fix the situation. Schultz says on average victims lost around $500 to that scam and it continues to hit the marketplace. She says the Social Security Administration will never contact you that way and consumers should be on the lookout for this.
Another popular scam is hurting those looking for love. “We see consumers that lose tens of thousands of dollars in romance scams because they think they’re in love with a real person and they’re really not,” said Schultz. DeForest encourages people to report these scams as she did. “You never know who the next victim is going to be,” she said.
The Wisconsin BBB encourages consumers to keep reporting scams via its Scam Tracker , submit reviews, and do your research before you send anyone money.