Attorney General Drew Wrigley issued a statement Wednesday warning of a recent surge in scam artists seeking to take advantage of our state’s signature “North Dakota nice” to catch people unaware and make them fall victim to old scams.

The Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office reports a large increase in victims of what is known as “impostor scams.” These criminals tend to masquerade as members of banks, tech support or even border patrol in order to convince customers to make payments to them as part of their “investigation.”

The major change in tactics for scammers is their shift to requiring these “payments” be conducted in cryptocurrency. This is primarily due to the fact that it can be almost impossible to track crypto transfers and the funds are instantly available from anywhere.

“These scams continue to be successful because the fraudsters exploit our natural tendency to be cooperative,” said Wrigley in a press release, “but if someone claiming to be a government official tells you to withdraw money from your accounts or purchase gift cards in order to avoid immediate arrest, I guarantee it is a scam. Furthermore, if you’re instructed not to tell anyone about a transaction, that’s another sure sign.”

Here are two major scams that have been reported recently, according to the press release:

  • Several recent victims reported that they received a phone call supposedly from a Border Patrol officer claiming that the victim was under investigation for drug trafficking relating to a seized package of drugs addressed to the victim. The scam artists threatened victims by claiming they would be arrested immediately unless they cooperated with the caller. Call victims were instructed to keep quiet about, the “investigation,” and one victim was sent an electronic document that was falsely referred to as an arrest warrant. The victims were directed to withdraw large sums of money from their bank accounts, deposit the cash into Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency machines, and send the cryptocurrency as directed.
  • The victim of the “computer virus warning” scam, reported that when he called the “customer assistance number” in the computer popup warning, the representative asked him for the phone number on the back of his bank card. The victim then heard from a caller claiming to be a security officer with the bank’s fraud department. The phony security officer then told the victim not to say anything to bank tellers because the virus was part of a scam at the bank that was being investigated. The victim and his wife made several large cryptocurrency transactions before realizing they were the ones who had been scammed.

The AG’s Consumer Protection Division offers these tips to help keep you from falling victim to scammers:

  • Do not trust your caller ID — some scammers use spoofing technology to display a phone number different from the actual number.
  • If you have an answering machine, let the caller leave a message instead of answering them. Delete messages from anyone you do not know or are expecting to speak with.
  • If you hear any warning signs of a scam call, hang up, and do not worry about being polite. Remember, if they ask you not to discuss things, the call is a scam.
  • If you have concerns about the legitimacy of a call, contact the Consumer Protection Division’s toll-free number at 800-472-2600 before doing anything else.
  • Never allow scammers access to any of your devices (downloading software they ask you to, allowing them remote access, etc.).
  • Never pay for anything over the phone, purchase gift cards, wire money, mail cash or send cryptocurrency to anyone you do not know.

“Legitimate banking or governmental organizations do not conduct their business in such irregular fashion,” said Wrigley. “The public needs to recognize that odd requests such as these are scams.”