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Published October 17, 2013, 08:23 PM

Targets, company warn of phone scams in Grand Forks

A Grand Forks couple’s phones were ringing off the hook Sunday, and on the other end of the line was a scam, they told the Herald. The voice on the other end said the couple owed $384, and provided a website to pay for the unknown debt. A friend at a local bank got the same call.

By: Justin Glawe, Grand Forks Herald

A Grand Forks couple’s phones were ringing off the hook Sunday, and on the other end of the line was a scam, they told the Herald.

The calls first came to the couple’s Midcontinent landline, then their Verizon Wireless cell phones. The voice on the other end said the couple owed $384, and provided a website to pay for the unknown debt. A friend at a local bank got the same call.

“Those type of scams are happening all the time,” said Tom Simmons, a spokesman for Midcontinent. “Oftentimes the problem is it’s hard to identify a single scam because it’s not the same number coming.”

In the case of the Grand Forks couple, 77 and 82 years old, five 800 numbers were used. That’s a bit unusual, Simmons said.

“It’s frankly a bit odd that it would be an 800 number that was calling her,” he said. “Usually it’s a throwaway cell phone.”

Also in Grand Forks, but on Saturday, a 73-year-old man reported a potential scam via mail. In this case, $100 gift cards to either Target or Walmart were offered — the only thing the man had to do to redeem the gift was give his debit card expiration date over the phone. When the voice on the other line tried to charge a $9.97 “activation fee,” the man refused, he said.

All people spoke to the Herald on the condition of anonymity, granted by the Herald to prevent future calls to them.

Simmons said avoiding scams requires the simple act of skepticism.

“Do not share any information with anyone. And under no circumstances give your social security number,” he said.

Most troubling to Simmons, he said, are scammers who copy the company’s logo in emails and ask for private information. He stressed Midcontinent never asks customers for passwords or other information regarding their accounts.

The woman who avoided the scam Sunday wanted to spread the word in case similar calls were made to others in the area.

“We’re on a pension, and our pension doesn’t go up when our expenses go up,” she said. “I just don’t want anyone else to get this call and believe it when they can’t afford it.”

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