Scam in text messagesNo money was reported lost in a text message scam last week — but that doesn’t mean there weren’t victims, according to the North Dakota Office of the Attorney General.
No money was reported lost in a text message scam last week — but that doesn’t mean there weren’t victims, according to the North Dakota Office of the Attorney General.
At least 12 Jamestown area residents received text messages over the Thanksgiving weekend, claiming their credit cards were deactivated, according to the Jamestown Police Department. The text message also asked the victim to call a phone number with a North Dakota area code. The number was 701-850-2965, although scam artists may have used other variations, said Parrell Grossman, director of the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division.
When they called, victims were asked to disclose personal information like credit card and Social Security numbers, police said. Once a perpetrator has that information, the victim’s personal information is compromised. A perpetrator may use the information to open a credit card in the victim’s name, for example.
Some Jamestown area residents had called the number in the text message and disclosed personal information, said Sgt. Leroy Gross of the Jamestown Police Department, but later canceled their credit cards before any money was stolen. Gross said the text was likely sent to many Jamestown residents. He, as well as other police officers, even received it.
Residents in Mandan, Bismarck, Fargo and Minot also reported receiving similar messages, the attorney general’s office said. No losses were reported in those cities either.
But unless they’ve checked with their financial institutions, residents who responded to the text message may not know they were victimized, Grossman said.
“Based on my experience, there have been or likely will be victims,” he said.
Although victims were asked to call a North Dakota number, the scam artist is likely located in a foreign country, Grossman said. Catching any suspects and charging them with a crime is difficult and rare because the phone from which the texts came is likely registered to a fake identity. Also, perpetrators can “spoof” a call or text message and make it appear the call or text was sent from a different phone number.
“We in law enforcement are really up against two serious barriers to identifying these individuals,” Grossman said.
Scams like this can dupe an innocent resident out of thousands of dollars. In a recent scam involving prepaid debit cards, one Bismarck man lost about $17,500.
In that particular scam, the scam artist tells a victim that he or she has won money but must pay an upfront fee to claim it. The victim is told to buy a Green Dot MoneyPak reloadable card, and provide the card code. The scam artist then strips the money from the card without the victim knowing.
Officials said the Jamestown Police Department had previously received reports of scams via email, letters and phone calls, but not involving text messages.
At the Attorney General’s Office, text message scams aren’t uncommon. In addition to warning residents of allegedly declined credit cards, the perpetrator’s text messages may also offer lower interest rates or other promises of which the public should be skeptical.
A bank or financial institution won’t ever text its customers in the event of a deactivated credit card, Grossman said. And anytime a text, call or email claims to be from a financial institution and asks to verify personal or account information, a user should disregard it.
When in doubt, look up the financial institution’s phone number in a phone directory. Don’t call the number provided in the text, email or call, Grossman said, as it’s likely part of the scam. A scam artist will also say he or she needs the information right away, so residents should not allow the perpetrator to pressure them, he said.
Residents can call the Attorney General’s Office at 800-472-2600 if they have questions or concerns. For additional information, call the Jamestown Police Department at 252-1000.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at kryan-anderson@ jamestownsun.com