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Tis the season to beware of scammers

During the holiday season, scams promising money are more prevalent.

An area resident received a call on her landline recently asking her to press 1 if she was a conservative and wanted to be part of a survey. She said the next message was that those completing the survey would receive $899 in gold. She hung up, which is the action recommended by the Minnesota Attorney General.

The website (ag.state.mn.us) states that in scams such as this, the next step is often to ask for a bank account for depositing the money. The scam artist then uses this information to empty the victim’s bank account.

An article on the AARP website explains that scammers who say they are with a political party the caller identifies with are more likely to get money from the victim because the caller feels loyalty to that political party or cause. They may even spoof the 202 area code for Washington, D.C. or display a campaign name on caller ID.

Political surveys by fraudulent polling companies that offer compensation or prizes are another way to pry sensitive information from victims. In addition, con artists may pose as representatives of political parties in an attempt to get victims to donate money by registering by phone. Personal information – such as credit card, bank or Social Security numbers – should never be given out to callers.

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This year’s most prevalent scam involves Social Security fraud. The Social Security Administration and the Office of the Inspector General have launched a new online reporting form to raise awareness and help catch the scammers.

Examples of Social Security fraud include victims receiving an automated call stating there is fraudulent activity going on with their Social Security number, or saying the number has been suspended and asking for payment of Social Security debt.

These types of calls should be reported at oig.ssa.gov.

The public is advised not to answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. Even numbers with a local area code may in reality be a scammer from another state who spoofed a phone number in hopes of getting people to answer.

The Minnesota Attorney General recommends first reporting scams to the local police department or sheriff’s office, then calling the his office at 800-657-3787. A fraud report form is also available on his website, along with a tab for filing a complaint.

More resources are available on the Federal Trade Commission consumer information page (consumerftc.gov) under the section “Pass it On.”

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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