The Gallatin County Sheriff’s office continues to receive reports of scams being attempted or perpetrated on local residents. The most common theme amongst these scams is that they ask for payment via Green Dot or Western Union; which would not be asked for by a legitimate caller.
All of these callers are very persistent and convincing. They may leave messages for you to call them back in an attempt to establish legitimacy. Most have foreign accents, and many will become unprofessional and threatening if you challenge their legitimacy. These callers are able to spoof local numbers to get you to believe that the calls are being made from this area. Do not trust your caller ID to verify anyone’s legitimacy; these are easily faked.
Do not send money to anyone you do not know, especially using prepaid cards of any kind; including Green Dot, iTunes, or Western Union money transfers. These are notoriously hard to track and are used almost exclusively by individuals or organizations involved in illegal activity. If you get a message from a business or government agency, look up their real number and call their public number, not the one given in a message.
Recent area scams include:
Jury Duty Scam
One of the most popular schemes recently is to call and claim to be a member of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. The callers are able to spoof local phone numbers so they appear to originate from Montana or even within our office. The callers claim to be administrators with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and tell victims that they have a warrant and are subject to arrest due to missing jury duty. The scammers then advise victims that they can pay to avoid arrest. Eventually victims are convinced to purchase Green Dot Cards and give the scammers the card numbers over the phone. The Sheriff would like to stress that this office, nor any other legitimate government office will never ask you to purchase Green Dot Cards as a form of payment. We may call you to inquire your status if you miss jury duty, but we would not threaten you with arrest or ask for payment over the phone.
Callers have been representing themselves as Medicare or Medicaid representatives who need to update or gather personal information. Do not give out your information over the phone to an unsolicited caller. If you need to, call the Medicare or Medicaid office directly and not the number the scammer gives you.
Callers will claim you have unpaid taxes that are due, and that you will be arrested if you do not pay immediately. Again, they will typically ask for payment via Green Dot or Western Union. Some even have spoof websites they will direct you to and show you your tax debt. People are directed to log into apps that allow you to view the caller’s computer screen. On that screen, they will enter your information into a spoof website in an attempt to show you that it is real. Again, the IRS does not operate in this manner.
Callers representing themselves as long lost grand grandchildren will call stating they are in jail in Canada and ask for bail money. Again, do not send money. An obvious sign that the caller is not legitimate is if they reference Green Dot and Western Union. A quick call to your relatives should help you determine that everything is OK and a scammer has targeted you.
The old “Nigerian Lottery” scam has once again become prevalent. In this particular scam, scammers send letters congratulating you on winning hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign lotteries. Along with the letter, they will send you a check to deposit so you can send money to cover the fees and taxes associated with the winnings. By the time you have deposited and sent money, the fake check will have bounced and you will have already sent the scammer what they want. Do not fall for a fraud involving a lottery you have never played, in a country you have probably never been to.
The caller states they are from NW Energy and threatens to shut off your power if you do not pay your bill. Do not send them money via Green Dot or Western Union. Again, a quick phone call to your local company can verify the status of your account.
We have also received reports of a “credit repair” agency that offers to deposit money into a victim’s bank account to improve their balance and thus improve their credit. The fraudsters actually deposit what appears to be US Treasury checks into the victims account via mobile deposit. The victim is then required to repay the money using iTunes cards by giving caller the numbers over the phone. In one particular case involving this type of scam, the victim was notified by their bank that the checks were fictitious. This scam, like most, also involved a spoofed US number which had originated out of country.