What to Watch: Latest Montana Law Enforcement Phone Scam
It's a "spoof" that hits right at the heart of your community spirit.
You get a call, which appears to be from your local law enforcement agency, saying they're working on a fundraising campaign or charity event. Then they try to get your personal information, such as bank account numbers.
It seems legit, right? I mean this is the sheriff's deputies or your local police officers. And you want to be supportive.
But you're actually falling for one of the oldest phone scams there is. And it's making such a comeback that the Montana Attorney General is issuing a special warning for people to be on guard and ready to reject these thieves, who are stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from hard-working Montanans.
Attorney General Austin Knudsen says it can be tough to spot the scammers. They are able to disguise their actual number so it looks "local". But Knudsen says the sure giveaway is when they ask for a payment, either over the phone or trying to get you to buy something "prepaid" debit card, like a gift card.
But it gets worse
The state says sometimes the scammers will go so far as to threaten the victim that they're wanted in connection with a supposed "investigation", or with outstanding warrants, all in an effort to get personal information. At times they'll even say they have to purchase a card to clear the phony charges.
Knudsen says in recent weeks there have been complaints involving Cascade County, Lewis and Clark County, Yellowstone County, and Flathead County. One scammer even tried to pose as a judge from Helena. In some cases, he says the callers will even use names of actual local officers to legitimize their call.
The Office of Consumer Protection has been getting 6-8 calls per day.
OCP advises Montanans who receive the scam calls to ask for a supervisor, under what authority the call is being made, and the court's jurisdiction, and then hang up and call a legitimate local law enforcement number. Above all, you should never provide personal information.
You can report a scam to OCP online, or call (800)-481-6896 or (406) 444-4500 to speak with an investigator. There's more information on the OCP's website.