June report, Part 1

We opened our meeting with a special announcement:   The Bush Foundation has announced its 2021 list of fellows.   Twenty-four people were chosen from a diverse and competitive applicant pool of 538, including people from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and 23 Native American nations located in those three states.
 Among the twenty-four people selected is Hennepin Country Attorney, Sandra Filardo.   In her acceptance, she stated, “[This is] an opportunity for me to develop my leadership abilities. …I am excited and eager to begin this fellowship.   This is a chance to make substantial, lasting, and impactful changes to [a] criminal justice system that unfairly treats marginalized community members.   I look forward to collaborating with communities in the region, increasing community engagement efforts, and making the work a more just place for everyone.”  

Congratulations, Sandra!


Our speaker this month was Eder Castillo, a prosecutor  at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, practicing white-collar prosecution and post-conviction litigation.

First, define terms:

What is a Scam?  A scam is when someone lies to you to take something of value.   It could be money, personal information, or property. 

What is“identity theft”?  This is a scam that targets your personal information instead of money or property. 

Scams  are growing in number and expense.   The Better Business Bureau 2020 statistics reported 46,575 Scam reports.   The median reported loss was $115.   The likelihood of loss if the scam is successful is 46.7%
[Doing the math, if 21,750 scams were successful, the aggregate loss would be $2,501310!   It’s highly unlikely that all scams were reported, so the true number is likely substantially higher. — EQ]
The true loss is not just measured in dollars, however.   63.7% of people lost time straightening their affairs out.   52.1%  reported loss of self confidence and peace of mind.   36.5% lost personal information.

Spot a scam:  the four P’s:

  1. Pretend – Scammers pretend to be from a credible organization, to gain your trust.  You won’t be wary if you get a call that looks like it’s from the Red Cross.
  2. Problem or Prize – Scammers will say you are in trouble with the IRS or that you’ve won a big prize.   Startling you with a surprise — problem or prize — may get you to suspend judgment. 
  3. Pressure – the sooner they can get you to act, the less likely you are to recover your good judgment.
  4. Pay – Scammers will insist that you send money through electronic means, gift cards or checks, so they don’t have to meet you in person. 

Ways scammers will contact you
31.9% through a website21.8% through social media like Facebook18.2% by email9.3% by phone
5.3% by internet messaging (WhatsApp)4.2% online classifieds4.1% text message2.7% other1.5% in person1.0% USPS
Scams begun via a website or social media contact were more likely to result in a loss than scams initiated over the phone, even for adults ages 65 and over. They begin by sending you a notice that looks like it’s from a trusted organization.  The most frequently impersonated organizations are The Social Security Administration, Amazon, Publishers Clearing House, Apple, Microsoft, PayPal, Medicare, Walmart, Dominion Energy, Cash Advance/Advance Americas.      A common trigger is a warning notice that your data may have been breached, so you “need to reset your password!!  Click HERE” but that click will give the scammer access to your computer.    If you want to reset your password, make sure you initiate the contact.  Do not  ever “click HERE”.  Log off, log back on, go to your account at that organization and check  your messages there.  Iif you have an account, you have a message cache. 

In 2020 the Better Business Bureau  measured and reported the riskiest scams on the BBB ScamTracker [https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/] but in summary the top ten categories are Online purchase, Employment, Fake check/money order, Advance fee loan, Home improvement, Romance, Cryptocurrency, Tech support [i.e. CLICK HERE!], Travel/vacation/timeshare, Investment.  The BBB also rates the scam “Risk Index” for each category.
[EQ: there is a full report here:  https://www.bbb.org/globalassets/local-bbbs/council-113/media/bbb-institute/riskreport2020/2020-BBBScamTracker-RiskReport.pdf

People are susceptible to different scams at different ages.  Your time of life is a signal of what your interests are and what scam you might fall for. Listing the top three per age group:
Ages 18-24  Online purchase                  Fake check/Money order  EmploymentAges 25-34  Online purchase                  Employment                    Fake check/Money order
Ages 35-44  Online purchase                  Employment                    Investment
Ages 45-54  Online purchase                  Employment                    Advance for loanAges 55-64  Romance                           Online purchase               InvestmentAges 65+    Travel/Vacation/Timeshare   Online purchase                Romance
COVID-19  opened a whole new space for scammers.   People’s defenses were down due to fear, isolation, charitable impulses, and confusion.Among the more common scams were:
Identity theft by offering fake stimulus checks.   The scammer would request the target’s SSN “to confirm” identity.False offers for COVID testing and vaccines – this has passed its time as vaccines are now available.   Some scammers still offer a way         to set up an appointment “so you don’t have to stand in line.”False treatments were offered.Fake Covid-19 charities of all kinds.Fake funeral assistance.  

People also opened the door to scams by posting their vaccination card online to celebrate but failed
          to mask the identity info on the card: date of birth, etc.
Scammers favorite payment methods:Scammers will rarely ask for cash because that is a one time thing and difficult to transfer.   Instead, they will say whatever will get you, the target,  to purchase a gift certificate or credit card, and ask you to read off the GC number or CC account, expiry date and security code. 
35.6% wanted credit cards.   31.2% wanted online payment like PayPal.   12.8% accepted a bank account debit. Those add up to 79.6%(the rest wanted payment by gift card,  wire transfer, check, cash, cryptocurrency, or money order)

10 Tips for avoiding a scam:  (learn more at BBB.org/AvoidScams)

  1. Never send money.
  2. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email or text messages
  3. Don’t believe everything you see.  Scammers can mimic official seals, fonts, and more.   Just because something looks official does not mean it is.   Caller ID can be faked and show up on your phone.
  4. Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure.   Make sure the website URL starts with “https” — that “s” means “secure”; there may be a small lock icon on the address bar.  Practice researching companies at BBB.org
  5. Be extremely cautious with anyone you’ve met online.
  6. Never share personal information with anyone who has contacted you, unsolicited.
  7. Don’t be pressured to act immediately
  8. Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods, services, taxes, debts.
  9. Work with businesses that have proper identification, licensing, insurance.
  10. Be cautious about what you share on social media. Facebook,  Linkedin, and special interest groups (Sierra Club, ASPCA, NextDoor etc.) are not secure.

Fighting spam calls on your phone – iPhone

With IOS 13  and later, you can turn on Silence Unknown Callers so you won’t get calls from people you ‘ve never contacted OR have never saved in your Contacts list.   
Go to Settings > PhoneScroll down and tap Silence Unknown numbers.   Turn on that feature.Calls from unknown numbers are silenced and sent to your voice mail; they’ll appear in your recent calls first. 
If an emergency call is placed, this feature will be temporarily disabled for the next 24 hours.
Fighting spam calls on your phone – Android phones
Use caller ID AND spam protection.   Caller ID and spam protection are on by default.   You can turn it off.   To use this feature,
Open your device’s Phone app   
Tap   More :  Settings > Caller ID & spamTurn Caller ID & Spam on or offOptional: To stop spam from ringing on your phone, turn on Filter suspected spam calls.   You will not get missed-call notification but you will see the filtered calls in your call history and you will be able to check any voice mail you receiveCaller ID by Google shows the names of companies and services with a Google My Business listing, but it also shows near matches.   To change the name of your school or business if it triggers too many false positives, contact your admin.

MARK CALLS AS SPAMOpen your device’s Phone app and go to Recent calls.Tap the call you want to report as spam.   Tap Block/Report Spam.   You’ll be asked if you want to block that number.   You may be able to tap Report call as spam, or just  tap Block.
Where should I report a scam?
Start with your local Police Department.    In Minneapolis, online, go to https://www.minneapolismn.gov      Click on “Report an Issue” then “Forgery or Fraud”  Options include Identity “Theft and Internet Fraud” [which includes a link to the Federal Trade Commission]
You can also report by calling 311 or 612.673.3000 and a call assistant will lead you through the process.   Note that 311 is still on limited hours and you may be on hold for some time.   You can ask for a reply robo-notice from our 311 service.

Minnesota State Attorney’s Office:  ask to initiate a scam report at 651.296.3353They also have an online form to fill out:   ag.state.mn.us/Office/Complaint.asp
Federal Trade Commission.   You can be linked to the FTC from the local police department.   The FTC is the most large scale.   It collects data from the entire country, and is more likely to notice trends and surges in activity.   The FTC also has the power to prosecute at a very large scale because their data comes from the entire country. 
FTC phone number is 1(877) 382-4357   which is also 1(877) FTC-HELPTheir online report is at   ReportFraud.ftc.gov
After your information is stolen

The Federal Trade Commission helps here, also.   See the online form at IdentityTheft.govThe form will give you a checklist of steps to stop the damage to your personal sites.   The form is very helpful in deciding what to do first, next, and thereafter.   Take the time to look it over, to prepare yourself or to counsel others.
Protecting yourself and others from ScamsIt’s very important to assure yourself that falling for a scam is not a “dumb” thing nor is avoiding scams a “smart” thing to do.   Scammers are very good at making you overlook normal safeguards — that’s how they stay in business.  

Factors that decrease your risk include1) Ask questions when you are unfamiliar with something2) Know that you can influence and empower your own life3) Believe that government institutions get their authority from individuals like you4) Tend to be skeptical when dealing with a new situation.
Factors that increase your risk include1) Feeling financial distress2) Feeling lonely3) Panicking during stressful situations. 

Atty. Castillo concluded by urging attenders [and readers] to include other people in this group (2-PAC) and to share this information with other people and other groups.    Information is the #1 resource that stops scams. 


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