March 3-9, 2024 is Consumer Protection Week, but your diligence should run around the clock.  Because the scammers and fraudsters work around the clock to take your money.

Montana's Attorney General Austin Knudsen released a statement on the common patterns in these scams.  When you are prepared with the knowledge of how they work, these criminals won't have a chance with you.

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The Law Enforcement Imposter

"Mrs. Smith, this is Officer Jones of Billings Police.  You are hereby notified of a warrant for your arrest.  You have been charged with Securites Fraud.  Now I don't want to come over and put you in handcuffs, but I'm prepared to do just that.  But we can take care of the judge's fine easily by you wiring $20,000.  Let's work together on this."

Police Car
Credit: Dmitriy Eremenkov, TSM Media Center

The scammer's first tactic is to scare the dickens out of the victim by threatening arrest or prosecution.  The shock and scare prevents the victim from thinking.  Just to avoid a jail cell, the victim will follow the scammer's instructions, including paying by wire transfer, gift cards, PayPal, crypto or even mailing cash.

The Crypto-Scammer

"Mr. Reed, I have the investment to make you VERY RICH!  You've heard of cryptocurrency.  We have just secured an advanced option issuance of GigaGold for a reduced price!  But there is a really tiny window of time to take advantage of this sale.  They're already going fast!  It would break my heart for you to miss this.  A check is way too slow.  So is a wire.  I know a way you can quickly make the buy.  There is an ATM nearby..."

Credit:, TSM Media Center

In boiler-room excitement, the fraudster hypes a fake investment gain from cryptocurrency, and very limited time to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity.  Again, the frantic delivery is so you won't be able to think.  So you don't miss out, just deposit a large amount at your local crypto ATM at the account provided just for you!

Do that and kiss your money goodbye.  That deposit cannot be recovered.  The scammer will drain that account and walk away laughing.  Crypto ATMs are not investment vehicles.

The Tech Support Scam

An email appears in your Inbox from Techi Support at "WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!  A Virus has been detected on your machine.  Click on the link below to start scan and removal of this Malware.  Hurry!  YOUR COMPANY'S DATA IS AT RISK!!!!"

Credit: grinvalds, Getty Images, TSM Media Center

It sure is..from that very link!

Did you notice the weird spellings in the email address?  That's the first clue that it is not from your business network or software company.

Click on the link and your computer and even network will be locked down, rendered inoperable.  Then the hacker will demand payment to release the system.  Or they may claim to be tech support and charge for the very expensive service to restore the machines.

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How to calmly avoid being swindled

Good reader, these scammers are working on new cons every day, so you have to be on your guard.  The Attorney General has a few tips to protect you:

  • Resist the pressure to send money.  Legitimate agencies, businesses and professionals will never demand immediate action.  They will give you lots of time to think about it and make a decision, no rush.  The caller rushing you to decide is the first major red flag.
  • Any payments using apps, wire transfers, gift cards, crypto or just cash is a major red flag.  Legal companies will accept your check or bank card that records the transaction.  Scammers fear a trace back to them.
  • If you don't know the person, don't give any money.
  • Verify the entity.  Call the local police department if a "cop" calls.  Look up the company online.  Do they have a physical address?
  • Don't click on any strange email links.  Contact your company IT to report it, and if they say it, just delete the email.
  • Pay attention to your intuition, also known as your gut feelings.  Sounds too good to be true, likely is.  If it doesn't feel right, or you're in doubt, do not buy and do not send money.
Credit: Prostock-Studio, Getty Images, TSM Media Center
Credit: Prostock-Studio, Getty Images, TSM Media Center

Who you gonna call?

Suspect a Scammer?  Please contact the Office of Consumer Protection for the Montana Department of Justice at 406-444-4500 or 800-481-6896, or email at  They have personnel to take your report and information, and to assist in any way possible.

May your knowledge and your preparedness shield you from these criminals.

Cascade County/Great Falls Crimestoppers Most Wanted for March 2024

Each month the Crimestoppers release the most wanted across the city and county. You can be a tipster and possibly eligible for a cash reward from them.

Gallery Credit: JD Knight