July 31, 2023 at 10:33 a.m.
Public outreach to combat fraud all part of Sheriff’s workday
Chisago County Sheriff Brandon Thyen doesn’t have to visit senior citizen communities and spread the word about how not to become a victim of fraud; but he does it because knowledge is power.
Sheriff Thyen hates scammers who misrepresent that they are soliciting for charitable organizations, who lie about a grandchild being injured or in trouble, or scammers who tell a senior they must provide access to an account for an official investigation using the name of a trusted agency. Thyen has had his fill with fake company reps separating people from their savings under threat of shutting off utility services.
One of the most frustrating aspects of consumer scams, he says, is that the money ends up outside of the United States and law enforcement often has little recourse.
Sheriff Thyen was guest speaker at the mid-day meal at the senior center in North Branch last week. His main message to the 30 or so people in the dining room was to take just a moment, think, and don’t react immediately, if you’re being pressed to resolve an account problem or send money.
The best response to contacts bringing you these types of messages, is that you need a call back number and you will look into the situation and get back to them. Most times they will hang up and move on, he said.
He compared Internet and phone scams to crooks who walk the streets and jiggle doorhandles of vehicles. He said scammers are all about connecting with as many potential victims as possible, and all they need is to gain entry to one, to hit pay dirt.
“Protect yourself,” the sheriff continued. “Tell them thanks for alerting me to the problem and I’ll check into it myself.”
Scammers use familiar organization names and logos, and likely will have enough of your personal information to sound legitimate when they contact you. They get that information from stealing your mail, or they learn about you from Facebook posts or accessing other databases. Their pitch is to scare you and get you into rapid response mode. You’ll be told you must act quickly on a problem, it’s a “one time offer” is a common phrase, or Thyen’s favorite; local law enforcement will arrest you if you don’t act (allegedly your taxes are late, bail payment is needed, a fine is overdue).
“The sheriff’s office does not work for the IRS,” he promised the crowd.
He also advised:
~ No company seeks payment through gift cards.
~ You will never pay money for accepting a prize, you do not pay taxes on “free” giveaways like a vacation sweepstakes.
~ The sheriff prefers you not put mail in your curbside box for pick-up —rather always deposit outgoing mail inside the post office or hand it to your carrier. The post office has a program you can sign up for that will send you a text or email describing pieces of mail sorted for you that day, so you can check if anything is missing in your delivery.
~ Never click on an Internet connection emailed or texted to a device, if you did not initiate the contact. That’s how the bad guys access your information/accounts. If you are contacted, look up the company information and go through a published number directly.
No company will be upset if you use your own resources and take a little time to track down the so-called issues or problems that a scammer invents.
~ See if you can password protect banking on-line accounts.
~ Read statements and invoices closely, because oftentimes scammers who have hacked into credit accounts or money card will start with small amounts to make sure the card is working.
“You aren’t out any money until you pay the bill,” Thyen said in his presentation.
Sheriff Thyen has also been to churches, nursing homes, homeowners’ association meetings and other locations and given talks about how those in his audience can keep themselves safe from fraud.
“One of my initiatives as sheriff is to protect our seniors from becoming victims of fraud and scams,” Thyen stated.
If you’d like him to give a presentation contact him at his office or e mail to [email protected].
The FTC compiles reports of scammers whether they have successfully taken your cash or not. If you hope to recover money you should report a theft by fraud to your local authorities. but also report any fraud attempt to reportfraud.ftc.org.