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Grand Forks police urge caution amid multiple reports of scam calls per day

Scams often result in the theft of hundreds of dollars, but GFPD Sgt. Barbara McLeod said she has spoken with people who have lost several thousand dollars.

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The Grand Forks Police Department has reported an uptick in the number of scam calls being reported to the department, and is urging people to use caution whenever receiving phone calls from unknown parties, especially when they are requesting money.

GFPD Sgt. Barbara McLeod said that recently, the department has received multiple reports of scam phone calls every day.

"I'd say in the last year, it's been growing steadily," she said. "But it does go in spurts, and it's not unusual to get several a day."

One of the most frequent scams recently is to call and say the call recipient has won a sweepstakes or a lottery of some kind, and in order to collect the prize, the recipient must buy a gift card and give the card number to the caller, essentially giving the caller access to the money on that card. Other common scams entail calls from someone posing as a worker from the IRS or other government bodies instructing the call recipient to pay fines or fees.

McLeod said it's common for scams to result in the theft of hundreds of dollars, but she has spoken with people who have lost several thousand dollars.

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"It's very sad to hear," she said. "And these people are hanging onto the hope that they're getting something free in exchange, or they think that it's some fine that they're required to pay. But no government body or legitimate service is going to ask for payment in gift cards."

Callers can be very difficult to track down, McLeod said. Many use technology that creates ghost phone numbers and fake IP addresses, so often there's no way of really knowing the real source of the calls.

The uptick in scam calls is part of a broader trend of increasing fraud claims seen in the area. Last year, Grand Forks police noted an increase in unemployment fraud in particular.

As with other kinds of fraud, McLeod said it's difficult to know why scams are on the rise recently.

"I don't know if the economy or the bigger economic situation is to blame, if people are taking advantage of others, or if money is hard right now. I don't know," she said.

The best way to protect yourself from falling victim to such calls is to be careful with your personal information, McLeod said. If someone you don't know is asking for it, and especially if that person called you, make sure the call is legitimate before giving out any information or sending money. She emphasized that no legitimate group will ask for payment by gift card.

"If you don't know the phone number, maybe think twice before answering it, and definitely before you say anything about your personal information," she said. "Just take care of yourselves. Don't throw your information out there, and just be careful."

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
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