by Tom Burch

Cass County Sheriff

With the start of the new year, we have seen an increase in calls related to new scamming phone calls and emails. We have taken several reports in the recent weeks of a variety of scams with variations in their delivery and “phising” methods, but they all have one common theme — they are a scam, not accurate or legitimate and what they are offering or promising does not come to fruition.

One common scam that we see this time of year is related to tax filing and IRS themes. Callers will try to inform you about unpaid tax issues or liens or potential IRS payments. It would be impossible to inform you on each variation of scam call that we hear about, but they all have common themes that we encourage our readers to be aware of and learn more about.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office and MN Attorney General’s Office reminds citizens of the following tips to avoid potential scam and fraud situation:

• Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.

• Be leery if you do not remember entering a lottery or contest.

• Be cautious if you receive a telephone call stating you are the winner in a lottery or of a prize.

• Beware of lotteries that charge a fee prior to delivery of your prize.

•Be wary of demands to send additional money to be eligible for future winnings.

• It is a violation of federal law to play a foreign lottery via mail or phone.

• Never give your personal details to people you don’t know. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be from your bank or any other organization, do not give them your details. Call the organization in question to check it is really them calling. Never click on a link or call a phone number in an email - use a phone directory to look up the correct number.

• Check your bank statements. If you see any unusual transactions, contact your bank, credit card provider.

• Review your credit report. Get your credit report from a credible agency. This allows you to check that no-one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts. See credit reports and credit repair for tips on how to check your report.

• Carry only essential information. Avoid taking important documents out of your home to minimize the chance of them being lost or stolen.

• Secure personal documents at home. Store your important documents in a fire and waterproof container or a safe deposit box in case your home is burgled or damaged.

• Destroy personal information. Shred or cut up your bills, statements and expired cards to prevent thieves from using them.

• Secure your mail. Secure your letter box with a lock and collect your mail regularly. If you move, notify the post office to redirect your mail. Mail sent to the wrong address could be used to steal your identity.

• Protect your mobile or Smartphone. Be wary when installing applications onto your phone. Scammers may send you applications designed to download malicious software onto your phone and steal bank account details.

If you are the victim of a scam or identity theft, you need to follow through to ensure that your accounts, ID, Credit and social security number are protected.

1. Analyze Your Situation. How have you or your accounts been affected? If you are a victim, your case might involve one or more of the following types of fraud: credit, banking, taxes, employment, government benefits, medical and criminal.

2. Place a Fraud Alert with a National Credit Reporting Agency (CRA). Contacting one of the three CRAs reduces the risk of accounts being opened in your name without your authorization. Sign up for a credit monitoring service (paid yearly service for usually around $100.00 per year – highly recommended and good for peace of mind).

3. Check Your Financial Accounts. Close any accounts that were opened without your permission, and close any of your existing accounts that have seen unauthorized activity.

4. File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Share information about your situation with the FTC so they can collect it for possible use by law enforcement across the country. You may file online and print a copy to show to the police when you file your report. You may also file a complaint by calling the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) IDTHEFT, or (877) 438-4338.

5. File a Police Report. You can contact our office to file a local police report and a report number will be generated that you can share with financial institutions or other agencies.

6. Keep a Record of Your Actions. Log the steps you take to address the situation. Include numbers called, names of people you talked to, dates of calls, faxes and mailings. Keep copies of all correspondence, affidavits, reports, etc.

We share this information yearly from a variety of sources to help keep you and your personal information safe and secure. We understand that there are a lot of variations and questions about scams and encourage you to contact our office if we can assist you with these potentially very damaging financial crimes.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, contact me anytime: e-mail tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us; call (218) 547-1424  or (800) 450-2677; or mail Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN 56484

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