Phones and computers have the world quite connected, but along with the convenience, comes a fair share of problems as well, including vulnerability to scams. Bothersome “expiring car warranty” calls don’t seem very bad when you compare it to getting a call saying a loved one is in a faraway jail needing money or worse yet a call saying your child has been abducted.
In a recent incident, Polk County Dispatch received a report of a child abduction from the Amery Middle School. Officers from the Amery Police Department, Clayton Police Department, Polk County Sheriff's Department and Clear Lake Police Department responded. Middle School staff quickly located the student in class. Officers determined that a mother of a student received a phone call from an unknown male that claimed to have kidnapped her child and wanted money in return. This was determined to be a scam and no child was abducted or in danger of being abducted. This incident remains under investigation in an attempt to locate the origins of the phone call.
In another scam last week, a gentleman received an email stating he had a package to pick up at the Clear Lake Post Office. The email asked him to verify his personal information. Luckily, instead of sharing his information, he called the post office who said they had not been trying to reach him.
The Amery police department said they probably get at least two calls a week of people wanting to report scams. They have taken multiple reports from people that have lost some large amounts of money since the beginning the year.
One of the big scams they deal with are the romance scams. Scammers have been defrauding victims of millions of dollars in the newer trend of romance scams, so much so that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been bombarded with complaints.
The FBI said scammers are defrauding victims via online romance scams, persuading individuals to send money to allegedly invest or trade cryptocurrency. From January 1, 2021 — July 31, 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 1,800 complaints, related to online romance scams, resulting in losses of approximately $133,400,000.
The scammer's initial contact is typically made via dating apps and other social media sites. The scammer gains the confidence and trust of the victim through establishing an online relationship and then claims to have knowledge of cryptocurrency investment or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits.
The scammer directs the victim to a fraudulent website or application for an investment opportunity. After the victim has invested an initial amount on the platform and sees an alleged profit, the scammers allow the victim to withdraw a small amount of money, further gaining the victim's trust.
After the successful withdrawal, the scammer instructs the victim to invest larger amounts of money and often expresses the need to "act fast." When the victim is ready to withdraw funds again, the scammers create reasons why this cannot happen. The victim is informed additional taxes or fees need paid, or the minimum account balance has not been met to allow a withdrawal. This entices the victim to provide additional funds. Sometimes, a "customer service group" gets involved, which is also part of the scam. Victims are not able to withdraw any money, and the scammers most often stop communicating with the victim after they cease to send additional funds.
Other common scams include:
Social Security scams where scammers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration and try to get your social security number or money.
Phishing scams where scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information.
Unemployment Benefits scams where imposters are filing claims for unemployment benefits.
If you believe you have been the victim of an internet or phone scam, contact your local police department. You may file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) if you believe you have been the victim of an Internet crime or if you want to file on behalf of another person you believe has been such a victim. If you’ve lost money to a phone scam or have information about the company or scammer who called you, report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
If you didn’t lose money and just want to report a call, you can use the streamlined reporting form at DoNotCall.gov.
Report the number that appears on your caller ID even if you think it might be fake and any number you’re told to call back. The FTC analyzes complaint data and trends to identify illegal callers based on calling patterns. They also use additional information you report, like any names or numbers you’re told to call back, to track down scammers.
They take the phone numbers you report and release them to the public each business day. This helps phone carriers and other partners that are working on call-blocking and call-labeling solutions. Your reports also help law enforcement identify the people behind illegal calls.