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North Dakota attorney general warns of scam phone messages threatening arrest

BISMARCK — North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem wants the public to ignore any telephone message that threatens them with arrest, as such calls are a scam and becoming more common in the state.

The scam artists are using what is known as "spoofing" technology to display on caller ID screens a phone number that is not the one they are calling from.

Stenehjem's office recently received a report from someone whose home phone number was hijacked, resulting in dozens of calls from angry people who believed her number was the one responsible for making the scam calls.

In many cases, the phony recorded message threatens people with arrest unless they return the call immediately. The message is often hard to understand because it cuts out when the bogus reason for the arrest is being recited.

Phone numbers given on the messages change almost daily as the scam artists use and discard numbers quickly to stay ahead of authorities, Stenehjem said in a news release.

"There are so many variations of these imposter scams it simply is not possible to issue a warning about every recorded message, but the one thing they all have in common is that every single one of them is a scam," Stenehjem said.

A fake IRS call is one of the most well-known variations of the scam messages, but a new variation claims that someone's Social Security number has been compromised and all their assets will be frozen unless they call back. "If you receive a recorded message threatening you with immediate arrest, whatever you do, please don't call them back. Simply delete the message, and then tell your friends and relatives so they know what to do," Stenehjem said.

Parrell Grossman, director of the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division, urged cellphone users not to answer calls from numbers that are not in their contact lists.

"If you receive one of these messages on your cell phone, use the call blocking feature to prevent any more calls from that number," Grossman said.

In West Fargo, the police department said it's been hearing from many residents who received calls threatening arrest if the resident does not immediately settle a tax issue by sending cash or making a wire transfer.

West Fargo police said the IRS will never threaten to immediately bring in local police to have a taxpayer arrested for not paying taxes, or ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.

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