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Willmar police chief: Latest scam uses FBI warning to bilk money

WILLMAR -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't make people pay fines based on alleged "violations" that appear on their computer screen.

Any message that appears to be from the FBI regarding Internet-usage rule violations is a scam, according to Willmar Police Chief David Wyffels. And, the chief says, if federal agents are really looking for you, they use much more direct ways of contacting people.

"If the FBI wants you, they will not leave you a note on your email," Wyffels said Friday. "They'll show up at your door."

The FBI scam is the latest in a long line of efforts by scammers who use phones and computers to get money from unsuspecting victims, Wyffels said, noting that these scams change over time. Remember the Nigerians pleading for money in emails? Or, more recently, do you recall phone calls from allegedly imprisoned grandchildren to their grandparents asking for bail money from another country?

The FBI scam does come in variations, but all of them ask the computer user to pay a fine for alleged violations and to "unlock" the computer, Wyffels said.

The bottom line, Wyffels said, is that unless you initiated contact with someone online or purchased a product or service from them, do not give out your personal or financial information. Such information includes bank account numbers, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and date of birth.

Be suspicious if someone calls you and says you won something and you didn't enter any contests. Again, don't give out information. If the message says "processing costs" are required for you to earn the winnings, tell the party to deduct the costs from your winnings.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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