Lisa Madigan warns of consumer scams in the suburbs

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan came to the suburbs Tuesday to bring attention to common financial scams targeting consumers throughout the state.

Madigan's round-table at the Prairie Lakes Community Center in Des Plaines was attended by some 50 members of local law enforcement, civic organizations and senior centers.

Since the financial collapse of 2008, Madigan's office has seen an increase in the number of consumer-related complaints, particularly in identity theft cases. The office fields 200,000 such calls and emails a year.

Among the worst kind of scams, Madigan said, are the ones that "really pull on your emotions."

For instance, the so-called "grandparents scam" targets seniors with phone calls claiming the person's grandchild is in trouble in another country. The caller usually says the grandchild was arrested, is in jail and needs money wired to them to make bond.

Madigan said once the money is wired overseas, it's gone.

"The emotional connection that grandparents have for their grandkids is one that is so powerful," Madigan said. "Grandparent scams are indicative of the emotions people have that are played upon by these con-artists who get you to directly give away your money."

Madigan also gave tips to prevent identity theft -- the leading complaint her office receives.

She advised putting a transaction alert on credit and debit cards that will result in a text message being sent every time a purchase is made.

"I want to know every single time my card is used," she said. "What you want to know is if you're at work and you get a text message saying that somebody spent $1,000 at Best Buy on a flat screen TV."

Madigan also recommended reading bank and credit card statements every month, and getting copies of credit reports, which are available for free from the major credit reporting agencies.

"There are many people we can help. There are many other people we cannot," she said. "We prefer to prevent consumer fraud from happening in the first place."