Agencies find it hard to bring scammers to justice

HOUGHTON COUNTY — The Copper Country has been plagued in recent months by an increase in phone scammers, but this year, there has also been an increase in identity thefts.

Local law enforcement agencies have investigated many of them but have failed to find any that have originated in the area.

“Most of them that we’ve seen are not local calls,” said Sgt. Russell Larson of the Michigan State Police Calumet Post. “They originate in New York or California, and sometimes investigation leads to finding out that it’s just a spoof number. A lot of them will lead to out of the country, like Jamaica or Africa, places in Africa.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website states caller identification spoofing occurs when a caller deliberately falsifies the caller ID to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally.

Spoofing is a primary tactic for phone scammers. They also use other tactics to fool people into providing personal information or send money under false pretenses. However, agencies are not able to investigate all calls that are reported.

“Generally, if the people don’t provide any information and hang up on the scammer,” Larson said, “there’s not a lot that we can do on our end as far as the reporting of it, only because of the fact that we can’t prosecute the person for making the attempt without an actual exchange of money or information that leads to an identity theft. But they generally tell us who it is that’s calling, and it’s a variety of different ruses that scammers are using.”

Larson said that of the calls reported to his agency, none of them have originated locally. Of those that have been investigated extensively enough to determine where the call originated, at least 90 percent of them come back as being from outside the United States.

Of those who have fallen victim to identity theft, none of the monetary transactions have traced back to local banks, at least as far as the Calumet Post is concerned.

“We haven’t had any where they actually accessed a local bank here,” Larson said. “We’ve had many attempts where the people have given the information and then had a second thought about it, called us and told us what they did, and we’ve been able to freeze the account in time that no money was taken.”