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"Operation Stop Scams" Tour Comes to SD Cities This Week

One-third of consumer complaints of fraud and identity theft filed by South Dakotans last year were employment or tax related.(fraud.org)
One-third of consumer complaints of fraud and identity theft filed by South Dakotans last year were employment or tax related.(fraud.org)

April 23, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Scammers are estimated to have stolen $63 million from U.S. taxpayers in the past five years. This week, AARP of South Dakota is stepping up to help consumers learn how to protect themselves.

One-third of consumer complaints of fraud and identity theft filed by South Dakotans last year was employment or tax-related.

AARP's director of outreach, Lindsey Holmquest, warns that a variety of tax scams have been reported across the country.

"There are scammers pushing really hard right now pretending to be the IRS, so the important thing for folks to know is the IRS will never call you, they'll never threaten you over the phone, they'll never tell you they're sending the sheriff out to get you," she explains. "The IRS will contact you by mail."

Cyber-security seminars and free shredding services are being held across the state this week in Rapid City, Spearfish, Pierre, Aberdeen and Watertown. For information on the date and times, go to aarp.org/sd.

For decades, senior citizens have been warned about phone scams, but Holmquest says millennials are also being targeted by fraudsters because they spend so much time on the internet. She says "public wifi" should never be used to shop online or check banking accounts. And if something seems wrong in any of your accounts, get off your computer and check it out immediately.

"If it even seems a little bit fishy, you need to stop, take a breath, and then reach out to your bank," she says. "Call you banker directly, and say, 'Hey are you trying to get in touch with of me? Is there some information you need?' Don't click through, don't provide that information via email. Chances are good that that's a scammer."

One scam targeted at millennials involves callers demanding payment of the "federal student tax." Millennials with student loans should be aware that such a tax doesn't exist.

Estimates show someone's identity is stolen every two seconds in the U.S., resulting in tens of billions of dollars landing in the pockets of con artists and criminals. Holmquest says vigilance is critical.

"Scammers are out there, and they will do things like look in mailboxes or check garbage cans, dumpsters, those kinds of things," she adds. "But more than that, we know folks need to be vigilant. Folks we talk to, nearly four out of five of them haven't even ordered a free copy of their credit report in the last year. That's an important thing that you can do to keep track of who's accessing your information."

Holmquest says AARP's free events are open to non-members and all age groups.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD