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Holiday scams: Sheriff urges caution in responding to offers

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office wishes to alert citizens of several scams that are appearing across the country.

Many are Internet related, but others may come by phone or mail. Any of these could put folks at great risk for identity and/or financial theft or loss.

Here is a list to beware of:

-- Fake charities - Make sure you get the information in writing and check the web site for verification before you send money to any charity.

-- Spam solicitations - Never buy anything from an unsolicited e-mail. No matter how good a deal you think you are getting, it is not worth the risk.

-- Gift cards - Gift cards sold at a discount at online auction sites have proved to have no value. Buy gift cards only from trusted sources.

-- Fake lotteries - If you're wondering whether that e-mail you got about winning the Canadian lottery or a prize drawing in London is legitimate, it is not. According the Better Business Bureau, the only lotteries that are legal in the United Sates are official state run lotteries. A good site to check for information is

-- Internet holiday scams - By far the fastest growing holiday scam is setting up bogus Web sites that offer fantastic bargain prices. The page looks professional. Don't fall for prices that are too good to be true.

-- Fishing for Credit Card security numbers - a new twist on phishing (fishing for information over the phone) aims to obtain the three-digit security code that is printed on the back of VISA, MasterCard and debit cards. The caller will claim to be a representative of one of these companies informing you of fraudulent purchases and requests your three digit code.

-- Greeting card scam - E-cards or postcards are being sent via Spam. Clicking the link to such a site will take the recipient to a malicious webpage.

-- Spoofing scams/fake e-mail - Criminals create a false or shadow copy of a real Web site or e-mail in a way that misleads the recipient. It will ask for personal information. Do not complete that request.

Here are tips from the FBI to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

- Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.

-- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.

-- Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses.

-- Only open attachments from known senders.

-- Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal information.

-- Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link that you are actually directed to.

-- Log on to the official Web site, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited e-mail.

-- Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.

Sheriff Phil Hodapp emphasized the need for caution in your dealings on the Internet, phone or by mail.