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Sheriff gives warning of automated scam in area

They’ve come in letters, emails, on the Internet and through personal phone calls from supposed relatives or financial institutions.

Now automated messages can be added to the long list of scams being perpetrated on residents in the Brainerd area and across the country.

The automated scams popped up recently in the county for the first time recently in Crow Wing County, Sheriff Todd Dahl said. He said his office was first alerted to the scam after one of his deputies received the automated call. Since then investigators have been alerted to a few victims in the area.

The crux of the scam is an automated telephone message asking for information on personal credit or debit cards or Social Security numbers. The victim punches in the numbers, and then is given a number to call with questions or concerns.

The automated calls are from what sound like a legitimate financial institutions, Dahl said. Calling the number given during the automated message, however, directs the victim to a real estate agency in New York. That agency, Dahl said, had its phone number stolen by the scammers.

“It’s just a great big circle is what it turns out to be,” Dahl said.

The bottom line, like it is with any other scam, is that people should never give out personal information over the phone.

“We really want people to know this stuff is going on. Scams will always be around but education is really helping out there. People are telling others and we’re getting the word out,” Dahl said.

“People will still fall victim. We’re Minnesota nice and we should be proud of that but we have to remember that there are people out there who will prey on that. Like we’ve always said, if it’s too good to be true it probably is.”

The automated scams join a long list of scams that have been perpetrated in the area that Dahl wanted resident to remain aware of. Those scams include:

• Money requests from friends or grandchildren who claim they’re in an emergency situation and need help.

• Shopper scams that claim extra money can be earned by working as a mystery shopper. A check is received for the shopping, with a portion of the funds to be returned for a processing fee.

• The Nigerian letter fraud. It’s both popular through the mail and on the Internet, asking for help in completing a transaction for a large sum of money. The end result is identity theft.

• Phone scams seeking private financial information, or claiming a loan needs to be repaid.

• eBay or Craigslist fraud, in which items are bought but never delivered.

Nisswa incident

NISSWA — A more specific scam was reported recently by the Nisswa Chamber, that a company was misrepresenting itself for Nisswa Elementary School.

Erin Herman, principal at Nisswa Elementary School, said a representative from the Ambassador Book Co. out of Atlanta has been canvassing the local area and looking for individuals and businesses to support the purchase of books for Nisswa Elementary School.

The company, Herman told the chamber, is providing misleading information and requesting support for a book program for the kids at the elementary school. There is no such book program at the school, Herman said, and Ambassador Books has no affiliation with the Brainerd School District or Nisswa Elementary School. Questions about the issue should be directed to Herman at 961-6860.