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Solving the scam: what’s on the other end

Sam St. Clair & Lucy Zumbrunnen

Sam St. Clair & Lucy Zumbrunnen

Sam St. Clair & Lucy Zumbrunnen

Solving the scam: what’s on the other end

Better Business Bureau seeks to inform communities

October 12, 2018

Someone muffled saying, ‘Can you hear me?’ on the other end of a call may seem like nothing. Yet according to the Better Business Bureau and Minnesota Department of Public Safety, students’ information can be stolen the instant they pick up the phone.

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How the scam works

For senior Anika Christianson, spam phone calls are nothing new in her daily life. Especially with the ongoing distraction it creates throughout the classroom.

“I probably experience phone scamming twice a month, typically over texts. We will be sitting in class and someone will get a message, it becomes a really big distraction,” Christianson said.

Lisa Jemtrud, vice president of community relations and outreach at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) defines scams as a hacker or artist attempting to have you make a quick decision online, accessed through a variety of age demographics.

“In a 2017 study that the Council of BBB did, they showed that 18-24 year olds are the most susceptible to scams, just reminding us how much of a problem this is. Further, of all the scams that were targeting 18-24 year olds, 23 percent of those scams were conducted over the phone,” Jemtrud said.

  According to the Better Business Bureau, they work alongside the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to reinforce action throughout the state. Doing this by having frequent meetings discussing the latest scams. The BBB thinks it’s important to understand the process of media scammers in order to report them properly.

Jemtrud said out of the five main scams conducted over the phone, financial aid and scholarship scams seem to hit students the hardest.

“You really do have to have quite a bit of personal information as part of (the scholarship application) process. Scam artists know this, so there are numerous fake entities trying to get students to apply for scholarships or aid but it’s not real,” Jemtrud said.

Jemtrud mentioned the BBB is involved with looking through all of North America to see where scamming, especially by phone call, is occurring.

“(The BBB) is well known for people coming to us to ask if something is legitimate or not. From consumers, just like you guys, saying ‘This is happening to me, this is happening in our area,’” Jemtrud said.

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Perspectives at Park

Jemtrud said one of the most common tactics scammers use is imitating a victim’s friend, usually them asking for emergency assistance or even direct money.

“Scammers are pretty good about this, they can pick up information from social media and other online places to know their name and how they’re connected,” Jemtrud said.

Jemtrud said she oversees media relations at the BBB. She talks to reporters and community members in Minnesota and sends out information for the public so they will report these instances.

“If we can give people preventative tips or things to look out for ahead of time, we are helping serve the community,” Jemtrud said.

Freshman Ella Roether said she frequently receives multiple phone calls from scammers, especially during class periods.

“(The scams) are once or twice a week. I feel that I’ve always been getting texts and calls like this,” Roether said.

Math teacher Keisha Piehl said she’s had personal experiences with phone scamming.

“(Phone scammers) use scare tactics and I can see how some people could be completely taken in by that,” Piehl said. “You could lose money but even worse you could have your identity stolen.”

St. Louis Park Social worker Lauren Buxton said phone scamming has happened to her before and can always become a bigger issue.

“It certainly could put someone at risk, especially if any kind of money was involved,” Buxton said.

Christensen said when she receives scams over text message, they are misleading and don’t add up. She also frequently hears of friends complaining about their scam struggles.

“The links don’t open up to anything so it’s just a waste of my time,” Christianson said. “I have heard other people complain about getting them very often.”

Roether said she feels this problem is only increasing, but worries there may be no possible solutions to stop the scammer from calling.

“I don’t think that there is anything that can really be done. All we can do is block numbers like this,” Roether said.

Piehl said she thinks teachers can help educate teens on the subject of phone scamming.

“I think teachers could incorporate it into material they teach,” Piehl said. “Just an awareness and a savvy about what people try to get away with.”

Jemtrud said there are serious dangers for students picking up the phone and not knowing the number or person calling.

“Scammers mix with your emotions, they can cloud your judgment so you don’t take the time to make a decision,” Jemtrud said.

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Securing your Identity

Jemtrud said the BBB works closely with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. They meet quarterly to discuss recent scam reportings and what has been affecting the public most.

“We definitely work closely with them so they can arrest and prosecute properly,” Jemtrud said. “We exist to help people answer their questions.”

Buxton said she believes educating students on the subject of phone scamming may help encourage a conversation around the subject.

“Providing information, when (scams and thefts) occur. Using some kind of step by step kind of things: don’t answer your phone, if a message is left, go to an adult,” Buxton said.

Jemtrud said she seeks out younger audiences, especially whether they have experienced phone scamming or not.

“If someone said, ‘Hey cool I just won a gift card for Amazon’ then the person is in the know can say ‘I have heard about this, it isn’t real and we can protect each other,’” Jemtrud said.

Piehl said she thinks informing the public of phone policies will have positive impact on Minnesotans.

“(Minnesotans) just listen to people talk on the phone. Then (scam artists) can give us more of an earful and we might be susceptible for scams,” Piehl said.

Overall, Jemtrud encouraged students to be conscious of who is calling them at vulnerable moments.

“If you pick up the phone and start talking, your name is on a list and you will get more and more,” Jemtrud said.

The Better Business Bureau can be contacted by email address [email protected] or by phone 800-646-6222 for questions or incident reports.

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