AG Knudsen Offers Top 3 Scam Protection Tips as Part of National Consumer Protection Week
During National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Austin Knudsen is urging Montanans to be vigilant and contact the Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) if they think they are, or may be, victims of a scam.
The Office of Consumer Protection seeks to protect Montana consumers from, and educate them about, harmful and unfair practices by retail businesses. The Consumer Protection Act prohibits businesses from taking advantage of consumers.
“Scammers are more active than ever and show no signs of slowing down. Montanans can take steps to protect themselves and loved ones so that their hard-earned money and identities are not used by con artists and criminals,” Attorney General Knudsen said.
Attorney General Knudsen encourages all Montanans to keep learning about common scams and offers these consumer protection tips:
1) For COVID-19 related charities, give to an established organization, rather than one that has sprung up overnight. Pop-up charities probably do not have the infrastructure to get help to the affected areas or people, and they could be collecting the money to finance illegal activity.
2) Don’t send money to someone you don’t know, including someone you’ve only met online and over the phone. While real relationships are increasingly being started through online dating sites and mobile apps, it’s unfortunately extremely easy for scammers to set up a fake profile in order to connect with genuine users of the matchmaking services and then exploit the person’s feelings for the fake profile.
3) Don’t send money to a “government” agent who calls and threatens to arrest you. Thieves call taxpayers and claim to be IRS or law enforcement officials. They misrepresent that you owe taxes or other debts. They threaten to arrest you unless you immediately pay your “taxes” through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They often alter telephone caller ID to make it look like the IRS or a law enforcement agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use your name, address, and other personal information to make the call sound official.
For ongoing consumer tips, follow OCP on Facebook.
To report an attempted scam, use OCP’s online reporting form. You can also talk to an OCP investigator by calling (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, emailing [email protected], or you may contact your local law enforcement agency.
Last year, 60 percent of inquiries to the Office of Consumer Protection at the Montana Department of Justice concerned scams or potential scams. In 2020, OCP investigators fielded 5,190 inquiries from consumers, resulting in 1,099 filed complaints. OCP reported a marked increase in applications to repair identity theft – 586 in 2020 versus 362 in 2019 – which it attributes to a rise in COVID-19 related fraudulent unemployment claims.
OCP facilitated the return of more than $325,000 in recovered losses to consumers and prevented losses of an additional $470,000 last year. On an encouraging note, OCP estimates consumers it spoke with were able to prevent more than $1.2 million from being lost by proactively recognizing and reporting scams.