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Scams: NRPD Chief Craig Yehlik warns residents to be vigilant

New Richmond

New Richmond Police Department Chief Craig Yehlik announced this past week that citizens and businesses have been targeted with scams and that all residents should be wary of phone calls of individuals asking for personal information.

The most recent scam that had been reported to the police department involved a person calling local businesses and residents and telling them they are delinquent on their electric bill, Yehlik said.

"The most recent scammers have been falsely identifying themselves as representatives from Xcel Energy, and have been telling the unsuspecting person that they must pay immediately, or else their electricity will be shut off," Yehlik said. "The victim is then told that they can remedy the situation by purchasing gift cards at a local store, calling the 'employee' back, and reading them the numbers off the gift card. By the time the victim has realized they have been scammed, the gift card money has been spent and the victim is out the money."

Yehlik also reiterated that there are no legitimate business that accept payments via gift cards.

In addition to the telephone calls to residents and businesses, Yehlik said there have also been reports of credit card skimmers being placed on scanners in the surrounding area.

However, the good news, according to Yehlik is that the skimmers have not been reported locally, but that residents should be aware at all times when using their credit cards.

"The New Richmond Police Department has not been made aware of any skimming devices located at any store or gas station in New Richmond. However, many victims of skimmers have been identified in the New Richmond area," he said.

Skimmers are illegally placed on card readers; these are usually found on ATMs or gas pumps that save all of the credit card information.

"The information is retrieved by the thief and used to make fake credit cards, which are then used to purchase merchandise and gift cards, which are more difficult to track," Yehlik said.

And not to be outdone, the scammers have come up with a third scam that Yehlik said has become evident via the internet.

"Scammers will indicate they want to purchase your item, and then send you a check for overpayment," Yehlik said. "They then contact the seller, inform them they accidentally overpaid, and ask you to get a money order or gift card and send it to them for the overpayment. By the time the victim's bank realizes the original check is fraudulent, the victim has already sent the money order or provided the suspect with the gift card information."

The most important question is how one can you protect themself?

"Be careful with your debit and credit cards," Yehlik said. "Before you slide your card through any card reader, visually inspect the area for a planted device. Also, there is usually a red safety seal on the front of the gas pump so you can visually inspect to see if that has been opened without the owner's consent. You can also go into the store and manually swipe your card inside if you have any concerns at the pump or ATM."

Most importantly, Yehlik said that individuals should never give out personal information, including credit card and bank account information, to anyone who calls.

"Reputable businesses would never call you and demand that you give them that information over the phone," he said. "Lastly, if you sell something on the internet and you receive overpayment from the buyer, ensure the check has cleared your bank (usually no less than 7 to 10 days) before even considering sending any type of refund."

If you feel you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft, make sure and report the incident to the law enforcement authority where you live.

The New Richmond Police Department is available at 715-246-6667.