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Published April 19 2012

ND attorney general warns about scam calls

BISMARCK – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is warning North Dakotans to be wary about phone calls they may get regarding computer and cellphone service.

In the computer error scam, the scam artist calls pretending a computer in the home has been sending error messages to the company and in order to fix the error, it is necessary for the “service technician” to gain access to the consumer’s computer, a news release from Stenehjem’s office said.

After “confirming” the consumer’s name, address and other personal information, the scam artist provides step-by-step instructions to gain access to the computer and then reports the error has been fixed. In fact, the consumer has unlocked the computer and given the scam artist access to all financial information, including online banking and credit card accounts, the release said.

The con artists often mention “Microsoft” or “teamviewer.com,” although other deceptive name variations are possible.

In the second variation of the scam, a phony customer service technician claims work on cellular telephone towers in the area may disrupt cell phone service for the consumer so the service provider is offering a month’s credit on the bill to make up for any inconvenience.

All the consumer has to do is “confirm” the billing address and the account holder’s personal information, and the caller will give the consumer a confirmation number to be used to claim the credit, the release said.

“Scam artists are professional liars and they know how to convince you to tell them things over the phone that you would never say if they showed up at your front door,” Stenehjem said in a statement. “You should be very skeptical if someone asks you to confirm personal information or account numbers over the telephone.”

Stenehjem said one reason scam artists are successful is because as soon as a warning is issued, the scam artists change the story in an effort to convince people the new story is not related to the scam warning.

“The best protection against being the victim of a scam is simply to hang up,” Stenehjem said in a statement.

Parrell Grossman, director of the Consumer Protection Division, reminds consumers that legitimate callers will not need to confirm account numbers or personal information because the company or business already has the information from when you opened the account or started receiving the service.