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Monday, April 22, 2024

SCAM ALERT: Attorney general warns of phishing scams

We live in the land of 10,000 lakes, but not all fishing in Minnesota involves walleye or northern pike. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison warns consumers to be on guard against fraudulent operators “phishing” (not “fishing”) for consumers’ personal information.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, Internet fraud costs victims hundreds of millions of dollars each year, with phishing being the top form of internet fraud. Increasingly, fraudulent operators are using throw-away email accounts and other advancements in technology to avoid detection and steal consumers’ information, identity, and money.

Phishing generally occurs when fraudulent operators send email impersonating financial institutions, government entities, internet service providers, national chain retailers, internet auction companies, or other companies, requesting that consumers “verify” their personal information. Scam artists then use this information to commit identity theft. Phishing can also occur over the phone, through text messaging, through phony or hijacked websites, or social networking sites.

In the most common variation of phishing, fraudulent operators contact a consumer through an email that appears to originate from a company that the consumer does business with, such as a bank, online auction company, or retailer. The fraudulent email asks the consumer to disclose their credit card number, ATM PIN number, Social Security number, or other personal information. Often, the message will indicate that the consumer’s account has been frozen or their security has been jeopardized and urges the consumer to act immediately. Scam artists use fear and urgency to pressure consumers to act rashly in disclosing information that they otherwise would not share. The consumer’s information is then used to commit the crime of identity theft by withdrawing money from the consumer’s accounts, or obtaining credit in his/her name.

Phishing scams may be particularly hard to spot, since the emails frequently use an official-looking appearance. Phishing scam emails frequently copy the logo of the company they are impersonating in an effort to trick consumers. Such emails often include a link to a fraudulent website.

If you have been the target of a scam, your first contact should be the local authorities. Also, feel free to contact us with details (we can keep your name confidential, if you wish).

Send your story to: rahnl@windomnews.com, or call 507-831-3455. By sharing your story, you could prevent someone from being scammed.
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