Scammers can strike anywhere, anytime

EAGLE RIVER — Undersheriff Curt Penala said the Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in the number of phone scam complaints and identity theft reports recently, something the Michigan State Police Calumet Post has also reported seeing. It does not however, seem to be an issue in other areas.

Sgt. Keith Raffaelli of the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office said his agency has actually seen a decrease in both the number of phone scam complaints and identity theft reports since last fall.

“Ours seem like they’re slowed down a little bit,” he said. “But of course, it all depends which department they’re getting assigned to.”

Baraga County Sheriff Rick Johnson said his agency has not seen an increase in either phone scam complaints or identity thefts, either.

“We always get a couple here,” said Johnson, “but I don’t see an increase down here, luckily.”

While it may seem as though northern Houghton and Keweenaw counties are being targeted, Raffaelli said he does not believe that is case.

“I’d guess it’s random,” he said. “In the summer, and into the fall, it seemed like we were getting quite a few. There was a lot of IRS scams, but those have stopped.”

Penala said that is a favorite ploy of phone scammers.

“As soon as somebody catches on to their tactic, they switch it,” he said.

Penala, like Sgt. Russell Larson of the Michigan State Police Calumet Post, said there is a direct connection between phone scams and identity thefts.

“Absolutely. That’s where they’re getting the information from,” Penala said. “What happens is, the person that steals the identity or social security number, tries to take out credit.”

In the instances of there being enough information from the victim who reports scam or identity theft, Penala said the Sheriff’s Office investigates many of them, and any that reach the federal level are turned over to federal authorities for further investigating.

Penala said people receiving scam telephone calls can protect themselves by simply not providing any personal information over the phone. Do not give a name, date of birth, Social Security number or banking information. Provide nothing the caller can use to hack or drain an account.