Idaho combats online scams with new PSA campaign

The holidays are a time for giving, but they can also be a time for taking. Online fraud and scams reach high numbers around the holidays, specifically in the month of December. 

The United States Attorney in the District of Idaho has partnered with multiple organizations and agencies to bring forward a new campaign called ‘Don’t Click December’, which aims to address these issues of fraud and scams.

Partners on this project include the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI on the federal level, and  the Idaho State, Boise, Meridian, Garden City, Star, and Canyon County Police Departments, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, AARP of Idaho, and the Better Business Bureau on the local level.

This campaign will release a series of four PSAs throughout the month. The first PSA was released Dec. 1, 2023.

“A common element in fraud schemes is that individuals receive unsolicited emails or text messages that provide some sort of hook or offer or even a threat to try to get folks to click on suspicious links,” said Josh Hurwit, U.S. Attorney of the District of Idaho, during a press conference on Dec. 1.

Common scams that arise are what is called the “package can’t be delivered” scam, “account subscription” scam, and the “phantom hacker” scam. All of these aim to get the victims to click on links in their emails that give the scammers access to your data and information.

There are many different resources available to individuals who have fallen victim to online scams. These include the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.

“Last year, IC3 received a staggering 800,000 complaints about suspected internet crimes. That’s an average of about 2200 complaints every day,” said Supervisory Special Agent David Bodily with the Salt Lake FBI field office during a press conference on Dec. 1.

Total amount of losses exceeded over $10 billion in 2022 alone. That is almost a 40% increase from the previous year.

Online scams affect everyone regardless of age. While the amount of losses is significantly higher among older groups, the amount of people targeted is independent of age.

Although older generations are impacted financially more than younger individuals, there has been more suicides due to “the shame of being scammed,” said Detective Brad Thorne of the Boise Police Department.

Thorne also said that the age groups of 13-25 and 35-45 have seen significant increases in scam attempts and reports.

“I really encourage you to ensure that you do report those crimes. Then you know that you have a team of people working in partnership to ensure that we did everything we can to hold people accountable for these scams,” said Jan Bennetts from the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.

These agencies really took the time to highlight that individuals should not feel ashamed to report the scam attempts or report it if they have fallen victim to a scam.

“Even if someone falls victim, we want people to make sure they don’t feel ashamed,” said Hurwit.

While this campaign is called “Don’t Click December” with a focus on the holiday season being prime time for scammers to take advantage of individuals, the organizations would like to emphasize that this is a year round issue that people should be aware of.

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