Sheriff’s office holds seminar on latest and most common scams

CHARLIE WARNER/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Captain Phil Whitacre, at left, and Investigator Jesse Grabau of the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department were the presenters at an informational seminar on the latest scams and how to protect your identity.
By : 
Charlie Warner
Bluff Country Newspaper Group

About three dozen people learned how to identify various scams aimed at absconding their savings and how to protect their financial identity during an informational seminar that was held last week on Thursday, March 6, at the Lanesboro Community Center. The event was the first in a series of seminars the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department plans to hold this year on various law enforcement issues throughout the county.

Captain Phil Whitacre and Investigator Jesse Grabau provided a myriad of information about the most common types of scams, as well as the newest and most elaborate technology thieves are using to rip off John Q. Public.

“There seems to be a new one cropping up almost every day,” Whitacre said during an interview last week. “We try to stay ahead of these people and educate the public, but they are so creative. And they have gotten so good with their emails and phone calls. They are so convincing.”   

According to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, scam artists have been around for centuries. Many of today’s scams are perpetrated by criminals who spend all their time and energy trying to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. These criminals often live in other states or countries and use modern technology — including throw-away cell phones and “spoofed” telephone numbers — to conceal their identity and evade law enforcement. Other times, the scams are perpetrated by unscrupulous companies or fly-by-night operations, which frequently change their names, addresses and telephone numbers to avoid detection and cover up a track record of complaints.

Whitacre and Grabau walked through a number of the more popular scams with the group in Lanesboro.

Some of them included these common scams.

A relative’s plea: A person received a supposed call from the Olmsted County Jail claiming that a relative had been arrested for drug possession and the person needed to send $7,000 to get this relative out of jail. The victim then received a second call stating that for an additional $10,000, the charges could be removed from the relative’s criminal record.

The person who received this call was a senior citizen, made some phone calls and learned that it was a scam.

“If in doubt, call the sheriff’s department,” Whitacre advised.

IRS scams: Under this scam, a con artist calls posing as a representative of the Internal Revenue Service, United States Department of the Treasury or a law enforcement agency and demands a large payment on back taxes or some other purported debt. The con artist will often threaten with arrest, jail or legal action to pressure the victim into making an immediate payment. In some cases, the con artist will ask you to provide your bank account information, which can be used to empty your bank account. Other times, the con artist may instruct you to send the payment via a wire transfer or a reloadable card. After the money is sent, the scam artist disappears and the money is typically lost for good.

“The IRS does not work with wire transfers or reloadable cards,” Grabau pointed out. “If you have questions about your taxes, call the IRS.”

Fake check scams: While these scams take a variety of forms, they typically begin when the scam artist sends you a real-looking check that is actually fake. You are instructed to deposit or cash the “check” and send some amount of money back to the scam artist or a third person. After the money is sent, the check bounces. By then, the money is generally lost for good.

If you receive a check from someone you do not know, and that person asks you to send back some portion of the proceeds from the check, use extreme caution. You are almost certainly being targeted by a fake check scam, Whitacre warned.

Paying at the pump: Whitacre cautioned those who pay for fuel purchases at the pump with a credit card. It doesn’t take but a few moments for someone to install a card reader in the pump and steal your credit card number. Always pay inside, where it would be a lot more difficult for someone to install a bogus reader.

On-line banking apps: The public should be very cautious when conducting online banking on a smart phone. Scammers can be quite sneaky in looking over one’s shoulder and stealing account information.

“If you think, for any reason, that someone might be trying to scam you, please call our office,” Whitacre said. “Even if it’s something you think is trivial. Let us know.”

He concluded by saying,” Your calls can help give us a pulse on what’s going on out there. It just might be a new type of scam. These people are very clever.”