They say a fool and his money are easily separated, but as scammers become more clever, they are starting to take funds away from the not-so-dumb among us.

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The following are the most common scams to watch out for, according to the North Dakota Attorney General:

Threatening Message Scam

Any phone message that threatens to put you in jail unless you pick up the phone right away should always be ignored. Because the message ends when the stated reason for the arrest is stated, it is frequently difficult to understand. The phone number provided in the message is nearly always different since the con artists use and discard numbers quickly in order to elude federal investigators. The message comes in dozens of different forms, all of which are hoaxes. One of the most well-known scam message variations is the phony IRS enforcement call. However, a recent variation asserts that the victim's social security information has been compromised and that all of their assets would be frozen unless they returned the call.

  • Ignore your caller ID, too. The scam artists are using readily available “spoofing” technology to display on the caller ID a number that is not the one they are using to place the calls, even hijacking real 701-area-code phone numbers.
  • All these threatening messages are scams. If you receive one of these threatening messages, you should simply delete it; don’t call the scam artist back.​​


IRS Enforcement Calls

Simply delete any communication that claims you owe money on your taxes or threatens your instant arrest. The IRS has repeatedly reminded taxpayers that they would never get a menacing communication from the IRS informing them of a possible issue. Whatever threat the message poses, it is always a hoax.


Grandparent Scam

Imposters posing as grandkids who have been in an emergency are targeting older residents of North Dakota. The presumed grandchild is in desperate need of cash. Sometimes a second imposter takes over the call, pretending to be a government official trying to help.

  • Be sure to warn older family members about this scam. Remind them to always check with another family member first, on a regular contact number, before agreeing to anything, even if it appears to be urgent.
  • This scam has dozens of variations involving different fake emergencies. Usually, the phony grandchild claims to be stranded in Canada or Mexico, but sometimes it’s a US border state.

Romance Scams

To meet someone, millions of individuals use social networking sites and online dating applications. However, many discover a scammer attempting to con them out of money instead of romance.  In order to deceive their victims, romance fraudsters fabricate profiles on dating apps and websites or use well-known social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google Hangouts. In order to gain their trust, the con artists establish a rapport with their victims by occasionally speaking or chatting multiple times a day. After that, they concoct a tale and demand payment. They will frequently claim to be living or visiting outside of the United States, giving a number of excuses, including being employed as a doctor by an international organization, serving in the military, or working on an oil rig.  They will request money for a variety of reasons, such as paying for an airline ticket or other travel-related charges, paying for medical bills, paying off debts related to gaming, purchasing a visa or other official travel documents, or any number of other reasons.

  • Here’s the bottom line: Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.

They will frequently claim to be living or visiting outside of the United States, giving a number of excuses, including being employed as a doctor by an international organization, serving in the military, or working on an oil rig.  They will request money for a variety of reasons, such as paying for an airline ticket or other travel-related charges, paying for medical bills, paying off debts related to gaming, purchasing a visa or other official travel documents, or any number of other reasons.


Sweepstakes Scams

Be cautious if someone calls you to say you've won something in a sweepstakes. No prize is offered. There isn't actually a sweepstake. Rather, the so-called "prize notification official" is a conman who aims to dupe you into sending money to cover fictitious costs or taxes before the nonexistent winnings can be disbursed. Senior citizens who live alone are a prime target for con artists.

  • If you are asked to pay anything at all before you receive the prize, it is a scam. No legitimate sweepstakes require a winner to pay fees or taxes up front before the prize money is disbursed.


Online Classified Ad Scams

Be cautious when replying to an internet classified ad. Fraudsters create fictitious advertisements to "sell" anything and everything, from expensive goods like homes, cars, and boats to little things like trinkets, toys, and even puppies. All they need is for you to get in touch with them.

  • Never wire or send money directly to a private individual; instead, use a reputable third-party payer. Never agree to purchase prepaid cash cards or gift cards as part of an online transaction.

No "internet police force" exists that can locate a seller or reimburse your money. Regarding online transactions involving private parties, we are unable to handle complaints. You will have to handle the issue on your own, either directly with the other party or by using the online website's complaint system, if it has one, if there are issues with the transaction or the item is not in the condition stated.

Be cautious if someone offers you more money than you are asking for something you are selling online! This scam is well-known.


Computer And Tech Support Scams

Have you had a call from "Tech Support" saying they've found an issue with your computer? Has a pop-up alert alerting you to computer issues suddenly appeared on your computer? QUIT! These are the telltale indicators of a con. The con man is trying to get access to your computer in order to install malware while he is purporting to investigate the fake issue.

Once installed, the malware will cause issues with your computer. After that, the con artist will demand money in order to "fix" the issue with the malware he just installed remotely. The con artist might request payment via gift cards, prepaid cash, money transfers, or credit cards.

  • Never allow someone to remotely access your computer unless you are the one who initiated the call for tech support.
  • Be sure to use antivirus and malware detection software, keep it up-to-date, and perform regular scans. If the scan detects a problem, usually the software program will suggest a fix, or you can take the computer to a reputable service company for repair.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has useful information to help you spot a Tech Support Scam.


Jury Duty Scams

In this con, the con artist calls and poses as a law enforcement official. He or she says the victim missed jury duty and threatens to have them arrested if they don't pay the fine right away. The con artists offer a "discount" on the purported fine if the victim sends cash via overnight delivery in certain versions of the scam; in others, they direct the victim to purchase prepaid cash cards or gift cards and then read off the numbers from the back of those cards.

  • No court will ever make calls threatening to arrest someone for having missed jury duty, and
  • No legitimate government official or law enforcement officer will ever demand that you mail cash, wire money, or buy prepaid cards to pay fines and fees.


Foreign Lotteries

Don't get too excited if you receive a letter, email, or phone call telling you that you have won something in a lottery or contest—it's a scam. You can't win anything if you don't purchase a ticket! All international lotteries are prohibited by federal law. There is no legal way for you to have won anything because it is illegal. Scams include online lotteries and competitions that say they randomly select the winner's email address.

  • Legitimate contests and lotteries never ask the winner to pay anything up front. State and federal government agencies collect the duties, taxes, and other fees after the winner receives the prize, not before.
  • If you wire money or buy a money card in response to a prize notification, it just goes straight into the scam artist’s pocket.


Work-at-Home Schemes

Scammers post ads on the internet, in forums, or in emails, enticing people to apply for jobs that they can do from home. They know local law enforcement cannot reach them because they operate online. Prior to accepting an offer, think about:

  • If you are required to spend any of your own money to purchase supplies, postage, make copies, or advertise, it’s a scam.
  • If the “opportunity” requires you to deposit money or a check they provide into your own account before sending money to another person or to pay a membership fee, it’s a scam.

To find legitimate job offers, try Job Service North Dakota.


Scholarship Search Scams

Financial aid "search" services are a waste of money for parents and students who are feeling the pinch of rising college costs and dwindling financial aid sources. Actually, financial aid offices at colleges offer a lot of the same information for free.


Inheritance/Beneficiary Scams

You are the sole heir to a fortune that is currently sitting in a bank in a foreign nation after the death of your long-lost uncle. Naturally, there will be fees to pay the bank, the foreign government, or the purported official who contacted you before you can claim it. To "verify" that you are the beneficiary, you might also be required to fill out formal-looking paperwork and supply personal details like your social security number and date of birth. QUIT! It's a fraud.

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