E-mail scams are prolific in North Dakota and have begun showing up on police and sheriff’s reports in Valley City and Barnes County.
One recently received e-mail scam was from a woman claiming to be in the Phillipines on an impromptu trip. The woman claimed her wallet was lost and her passport had been confiscated by the hotel where she was staying because she couldn’t pay her bill. The woman went on to ask for a loan of $1,800 so she could get back to the United States. The woman promised the recipient she would pay back the money as soon as she returned hoping an unsuspecting victim would send money now and ask questions later.
Scams like this aren’t uncommon, according to Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin. One common scam, according to McClaflin is the grandparent scam.
According to the North Dakota Attorney General’s Website, the grandparent scam includes a person calling an elderly person claiming to be a grandchild who needs money wired out of country for legal fees, to get out of jail, pay medical bills, or bills associated with an accident.
The scammer may use information that is readily avaliabe, including information posted on social networking sites like Facebook, to convince a victim he or she is a family member.
According to McClaflin, scammers persist until they find someone who falls for their con.
“They target everybody and hook whoever they can get,” said McClaflin.
The attorney general offers a few tips on how to avoid losing money to scammers.
If someone e-mails or calls claiming to be a relative or friend who needs money, don’t fill in the blanks for that person regarding personal information. Ask for a name, if it isn’t provided, hang up or delete the e-mail.
If a family member or friend claims to be in trouble, verify the information by calling another family member or mutual friend directly. Don’t use a phone number offered by the caller.
Never give out bank account or credit card information.
Never wire money, once money is wired outside the U.S., it can’t be recovered.
Use a spam filter and never open an e-mail attachment unless it was expected or the sender is known.
Other e-mail or Internet scams known to the attorney general includes lotteries or sweepstakes that require the winner to pay taxes up front, business scams involving Yellow Pages advertising or billing for services that were never performed, fake checks to pay for online auction items (many times for more than the sale amount), and threatening collection calls for bill that have either been paid or never owed (many times for paid payday loans).
Never wire or mail money to receive money as requested in many lottery or sweepstakes scams, even if the scammer insists that taxes must be paid before winnings can be distributed. According to the attorney general, the IRS will contact true winners by mail.
For more information on scams, or to report a scam, visit the North Dakota Attorney General’s website at www.ag.state.nd.us .