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Posted on: April 9, 2021

Scam Alert: Protect yourself from phone scams

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SPEARFISH, SD – The Spearfish Police Department reminds everyone to take steps to protect themselves from scams. Law enforcement and government agencies will never call you and ask you to send cash or gift cards or wire funds.

Recently, the department has received reports from citizens who have answered phone calls from someone falsely claiming to work for the U.S. Social Security Administration, stating the citizen’s Social Security Number is being used by another person and that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is involved. They then direct the citizen to call a number they claim is for the DEA representative or say that the DEA will be calling the citizen. The false DEA representative then makes the following claim to the citizen: The person using their Social Security Number has money laundering and drug trafficking charges, and the citizen needs to mail cash and gift cards or wire funds to them for “safekeeping.”

Other reports involve scammers posing as out-of-state law enforcement agencies claiming that the citizen has a warrant for arrest out of their jurisdiction that requires them to send money, or else someone will arrive shortly to arrest the citizen.

These claims are entirely false and are part of a phone scam to steal from you. If you receive and answer a call claiming something similar to the above, hang up immediately and call your local law enforcement agency. The Spearfish Police Department may be reached at 642-1300.

Unfortunately, advances in technology have made it cheaper and easier than ever to make scam calls from anywhere in the world. Technology has also made scam calls a more widespread issue and more difficult problem to solve, allowing criminals to hide their information and identity from both those they are attempting to scam and any law enforcement agencies looking for them. Tech also allows scammers to identify targets, make scams more believable, and increase their likelihood of successfully scamming consumers out of money or valuable information.

The best way to protect yourself is prevention. Do not answer phone calls from numbers you do not recognize, or if you do answer and do not know the caller, hang up. Phone scammers often try to hook victims with enticing offers, appeals for charitable causes, claims of being associated with a government agency, or use of threats if you don’t comply. They pressure you to make a decision quickly. Scam calls are made by criminals with the purpose of tricking you into giving them money or providing personal information they can use or sell for financial gain. These scammers are skilled in deception and often use technology to mask their location and identity.

Below are common warning signs of a phone scam: 

  • A claim that you have been specially selected
  • Use of high-pressure sales tactics and “limited-time” offers
  • Reluctance to answer questions about the business or the offer 
  • Request that you “confirm your personal information”
  • Request payment by means other than credit card – including cash, gift card, wire transfer, or private courier 
  • Request your credit card or other payment mechanism for “shipping and handling”
  • Use of threats if you don’t comply – even the threat of arrest 
  • The call starts with a prerecorded message – called a “robocall”
  • Claims you have a virus on your computer or requests to log in to your computer
  • Claims to be a friend or relative in need of money – but they don’t give you any time to think or contact others 

For more information about common phone scams, tips to avoid scams, and scam call apps and tools for consumers, visit https://puc.sd.gov/scamcalls/default.aspx or https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.  

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