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Sophisticated scams: New tricks are not-so-easy to spot

Just when you think it’s safe to get back in the water, another scamming shark reaches through the phone lines and swallows a big chunk of your money.

That’s the case around the Detroit Lakes area again, as law enforcement warns that different scams are again popping up.

In what seems to be an ebb and flow of scams, local officers say the relatively low number of incidents over the past couple of months were only the calm before storm.

“When we get one, we tend to get a bunch at a time,” said Detroit Lakes Police Deputy Todd Glander.

Most people have heard of the so-called “Grandparent Scheme,” which targets elderly and convinces them to ire money to help out the caller, claiming to be their grandchild in need of help from places like a Canadian or Mexican jail or an accident. And although local authorities say that scam is once again heating up, scammers are changing tactics a bit, requesting that their victims go to CVS and purchase what is called a “green dot card,” which is a pre-paid card.

“It’s similar to wiring money because you just give them the pin number on the card and they can deplete it,” said Glander, who says unfortunately, people are still falling for this one and losing money.

“Another one that’s happening a lot here now is one where people will get a check in the mail from a sweepstakes or Craig’s List or something that’s hundreds or thousands of dollars over what it says they should be getting,” said Glander. “And they want you to go and cash it, then wire them the rest, and because it looks authentic, banks don’t know it’s not good until they run it a day or two later.”

Glander says that’s when banks want their money back, and they want it back from the victim of the scam.

“And it doesn’t matter what age you are; people of all ages are falling for that one because it seems like such a good deal,” said Glander.

Other scams coming through Detroit Lakes and other areas include somebody claiming to be from Microsoft wanting people to turn on their computers and allow them to take them through some over-the-phone updates to their computers, which will ultimately allow them access to the computer and its passwords and banking information.

Another one that’s popping up around Detroit Lakes right now is a caller who claims to be from Payday Loans, and that caller wants money for an alleged “default” on a quick loan and even threatens to call police.

“They are using intimidation and scare tactics to get them to act right away,” said Glander, reading over the latest report of a scam attempting to get banking information from Magnum Belize – a travel company run by Cheryl Chivers of Travel Travel of Detroit Lakes.

According to Chivers, she’s gotten “pretty darn good” at detecting the seemingly never-ending string of scams that seem to circulate these days, but the one she came across this week sent her toward police.

“Because it looked so… kosher,” said Chivers, who says she got two requests via email and fax with letterhead that looks like it’s from the Department of Transportation. It informed her that she had failed to submit the release form that even government entities needed from financial institutions, and it included a form she needed to fill out for them.

“And they wanted my bank, my account number… everything,” said Chivers, who says even to her who has recently heard of some of her clients getting scammed from internet travel deals, it looked legit. “And I’m not dumb… I can usually tell a scam from a mile away, but this one… they’re getting really good.”

Glander says it’s hard to find the perpetrators in these cases because they’re usually overseas. “And our arm of the law doesn’t stretch that far,” he said, adding that local authorities do report the incidents to the Department of Public Safety’s fraud department, which he says does have some success with shutting operations down. The problem is, just one when one is shut down, another one pops up somewhere.

“I’d say to people, if it seems too good to be true, it is,” said Glander. “So just do your homework, ask a lot of questions and if people need, they can call us or other law enforcement first before doing anything because we can probably help figure out whether or not it’s a scam.”

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466