Scams are very common

By: 
Brendan Heidner
Thursday, January 16, 2020
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What do you do if a relative calls claiming they are in immediate need of money so they can get out of jail? The answer is quite simple: just hang up.

Many scams are known and can usually be identified fairly quickly, but scammers continue to find new creative ways to use their cunning wit to trick their victims into giving them personal information or money.

Local residents, Tina Carter and Ava Anderson recently received odd messages in two different scam attempts.

Carter had only gone to do some research on the Internet when a supposed Microsoft alert blared at her, asking she enter her Microsoft login information. Suspicious yet unable to do anything else on her computer, Carter called the number provided in the alert.

“I immediately said, ‘is this a scam?’” Carter said. “And he asked, ‘why would you think that?’”

Listening a little longer, the caller wanted Carter to follow specific instruction to download software and login so he might fix her computer.

“I just hung up on him and waited on some customers,” Carter said.

Although she cut the phone connection, the alert on the computer would not go away. This prompted Carter to research Microsoft’s legitimate phone number - which she noted was not the same number as on the alert - and call for help.

After explaining to Microsoft what happened, they informed Carter it was a scam and all she needed to do was restart the computer to remove the alert.

“If I had given (the scammer) my information, they would have had full access to my computer,” Carter said.

Anderson received a more well known scam call.

The caller, claiming to be Anderson’s grandson started a friendly conversation with her.

“Right from the start I thought this didn’t sound right,” Anderson said.

The caller wanted Anderson to keep a secret from his parents and help him out. He claimed he was ill and needed to go see a doctor, so a friend was taking him and they ended up in jail after being picked up by law enforcement because his friend had no license and had drugs present in the vehicle. His reason for calling was to get bond money in order to get out of jail.

“I thought, ‘oh boy, this is getting good,’” Anderson said.

Understanding it was not her actual grandson, Anderson took a little bit of time to engage in the conversation. She told the caller she could not send the money he had requested due to the fact she was going on a trip and needed the money herself. Anderson advised the caller he go ask his parents for help.

Still adamant that Anderson send the money to him for the bond, she asked one question that ended the scam.

“I asked him, ‘who are your folks?’” she said. “Then they hung up.”

Carter’s and Anderson’s stories are only two examples of the hundreds of scam attempts that run rampant - not to mention thousands across the United States - everyday.

“These scams happen a hundred times a day probably just in our community,” Glendive Police Chief John Hickman said.

Mid-Rivers’ Chief Communications Coordinator Erin Lutts mentioned a national analysis done by Hiya - a company whose tools help identify and block unwanted calls - shows 56.4 billion scam calls made in 2019 which went up 108 percent from 2018.

Scams are “tricky” for the police department as the scam calls - otherwise known as “robocalls” - come from computer generated numbers, deeming them untraceable. This is particularly dangerous if someone ends up giving information to the caller.

“Once you give the information, it’s too late,” Hickman said. “There is nothing we can do to stop it.”

Unfortunately there is currently no problem ending solution to scams, but there are ways to mitigate the impact they have on victims.

If a “robocall” is answered, Hickman and Lutts both relayed the importance of never giving out any personal information to the person on the other line.

The best way to identify whether it is a scam or not is if the caller asks you

for money or verification of any personal information such as “passwords, PIN numbers, social security numbers or any other sensitive information.”

“No legitimate company, including the IRS...calls and gets your social security number over the phone,” Hickman said.

Even if you do not give sensitive identification information out, Lutts noted a simple verbal agreement to the caller’s questions can be recorded and used as consent for anything or to target and fool relatives.

“The best thing to do is just hang up on the people that are calling you and not give them anything,” Hickman said. “If you think you have a problem with your credit card, or you think you have a problem with the IRS, hang up and call (them) because you know who you are dialing.”

Lutts said anyone can help with the enforcement of “robocalling” laws and “robocall” blocking by filing reports at www.consumercomplaints.fcc.gov or by phone at 1-888-225-5322.

Ultimately remember this when dealing with suspicious messages of any kind: “If you think it is wrong, it probably is,” Hickman said.

Reach Brendan Heidner at news@rangerreview.com.

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