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State, area county warn about phone calls from scammers

Authorities are alerting residents of some recent scam activity, with one advisory coming from within the region.

In Wisconsin, Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve warned last week of a new scam posing as a phone call from the sheriff’s office.

The caller claims to be Marinette County Chief Deputy James Hansen, telling the person he or she failed to appear in court so must go to the sheriff’s office or pay $5,000.

“This is a scam,” Sauve wrote in his advisory. “Do not send money or give out credit or debit card account information, Social Security numbers or any other personal information at all. Ask them to call the sheriff or just hang up on them.”

Also last week, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services drew attention to an increasingly common scam in which victims receive a phone call or text from someone claiming to be from their financial institution in an attempt to gain access to financial accounts to steal funds.

“The criminals perpetrating these fraudulent schemes are becoming increasingly cunning, and victims can lose thousands of dollars if they aren’t careful,” DIFS Director Anita Fox said. “It is up to every one of us to take the necessary precautions to protect our personal information, even when it appears that a phone call or text message is coming from a legitimate source.”

As with the Marinette County scam, the target receives a phone call or text message that appears to be from the legitimate phone number — a technique known as “spoofing.” In the call or text feigning to be from a financial institution, the scammer lies to the victim about an issue with their account, such as an unauthorized purchase or overdraft, and then assures the victim that they can resolve the issue during that call or texting session. The scammer asks the victim to verify account credentials or personal information and then uses that information to log in and initiate transfers and transactions to steal money from the victim’s account.

These scams use psychological manipulation to trick their victims into giving away sensitive information. Under no circumstances should consumers provide a person calling them with information about their financial accounts.

The DIFS recommends these steps consumers can take to avoid falling prey to these scams —

— NEVER give personal or account information to anyone calling YOU, even if the caller says it is for “verification purposes.” Personal information or identity verifying information should be provided only to organizations or companies that you have called or initiated contact with.

— If the person contacting you says there is a problem that must be resolved immediately, hang up and call the phone number you know will get you to someone who can be trusted with personal or account information. This could be the phone number on your debit or credit card, account statement or on mailed correspondence from the company. Do not call phone numbers provided in text messages or voicemails by the person contacting you.

— Use multifactor authentication measures in addition to a password to log into accounts, such as a security code sent via text message or email. Do NOT provide this security code to anyone under any circumstances. Other multifactor authentication measures can include a scan of your fingerprint, retina, or face on a mobile device, or a passcode via an authentication app.

Individuals who believe they are a victim of fraud should first contact their financial institution or the company that the compromised account is with to attempt to resolve the issue. If you feel the company did not appropriately handle your complaint, contact DIFS by calling 877-999-6442, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by completing an online complaint form.

For more information, go to Michigan.gov/DIFS or follow the department on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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