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SD Fraud Complaints Down, but Thousands Still at Risk

New data shows hundreds of South Dakotans have recently fallen victim to identity theft scams, and consumer watchdogs are trying to help. (iStockphoto)
New data shows hundreds of South Dakotans have recently fallen victim to identity theft scams, and consumer watchdogs are trying to help. (iStockphoto)
August 15, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. — New data shows South Dakota reported fewer fraud complaints than almost every other state, but thousands of local residents are still falling victim to scams.

According to AARP's Fraud Watch Network, South Dakota ranks 49th in the nation for fraud complaints, but in 2014, nearly 3,300 people submitted complaints about identity theft and other forms of fraud. According to Leah Ganschow, associate state director of communications and outreach with AARP South Dakota, most are being duped either by lottery scams or identity theft - because their information is just too easy to steal.

"The most common way that people are getting this information in South Dakota is through government documents,” Ganschow said, "which they can pull from the mailbox, from the trash if they aren't shredded, or also from online use of public Wi-Fi."

Anyone who uses a public Internet connection at hotels or restaurants should assume that it's never private, Ganschow said. Avoid entering credit card numbers or accessing a bank account while on public Wi-Fi.

More than 250 South Dakotans reported falling victim to lottery scams, which have become more popular recently. Typically, these involve paying a fee to enter or to improve your chances of winning. Ganschow warned that the financial risks are real.

"It kind of varies by scam, but one of the numbers that we'll see a lot is at least $250 per transaction,” she said. "And that would be on the low end. You're lucky if you're only spending $250."

AARP South Dakota will host its final free summer Fraud Watch event in Hartford on the afternoon of August 18. The South Dakota Attorney General's office and the Better Business Bureau will share next steps for anyone who has fallen victim to a scam.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD