Local law enforcement warns of fraud and computer attacks

Crime Watch

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DRIGGS — Hang up the phone.

That is the message that Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford has for east Idaho residents. Liford said that there have been several recent incidents of fraud and with tax season looming, he wants all residents to be on the lookout for scams.

“I want people to hang up on people who call you,” he said. “Hang up the phone.”

Common scams in the past include callers posing as bail bonds agents, or agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Last year a valley woman paid scammers several thousand dollars in iTunes gift cards because she thought her granddaughter needed the money to get out of jail. A woman was targeted with the same scam in February, but fortunately did not fall for it.

This month, a man was told to pay the processing fees for a loan he was applying for in around $600 worth of iTunes gift cards. He was able to cancel payment on at least some of the cards.

In the past, scammers have convinced valley residents to pay them in “green dot” cards and other cash cards. Another scam that has hit the area is when scammers pretend to be from the IRS and even threaten to arrest someone if they don’t send them cash.

Liford said asking for payment in gift or cash cards in an obvious red flag, and so is an IRS agent threatening you or even just asking for personal information.

“They’re not going to call you on the phone and threaten to arrest you,” he said.

When in doubt, Liford reiterated, hang up the phone.

However, phone calls aren’t the only way scammers try to dupe valley residents.

Just this week, a Teton School District employee reportedly wired around $20,000 to a bank account he thought belonged to the district. It turns out the email he received instructing him to carry out the transfer was fraudulent.

Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme said the investigation is ongoing and the district does not have more details at this time.

“When we gather the facts, we will certainly share them out,” he said.

Liford said the FBI has been brought in on the case. He also notes the city of Victor faced a similar fraud attempt several years ago, but did not transfer the money.

He said that computer scams and hacks do not just happen to everyday citizens but businesses and government as well. For example the Teton County website was recently compromised by a Turkish hacker, but IT staff kept the intruder from gaining access to he county server.

Liford said hackers have also targeted the sheriff’s office, but were unsuccessful. Nearby Bingham County was not so lucky; their servers were compromised and the hackers asked for $30,00 to return the data.

The county ended up paying 3 Bitcoins (around $3,000), to get some of the data back, according to East Idaho News.

The IRS has posted a list of steps to prevent tax related scams as millions of Americans prepare to file before April 15. Those steps can be found at www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.

This article was originally published in the Teton Valley News. It is used here with permission.