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COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS: The 2020 Holiday Season

Dec 18, 2020 03:41PM ● By Editor
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By Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen from Cook County MN Law Enforcement - December 18, 2020

The holiday season is the time of year where public safety folks pass on tips to the community regarding safety and wellness for the upcoming holidays.

This year is significantly different from past holidays in that many or all of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue, anxiety, anger, uncertainty, skepticism and loneliness.

Our generations have never witnessed such a trying time with 1) a virus that just won't be tamed, and 2) a high level of civil unrest, which still has many unsure how we move forward. Please know that this is not lost upon many of us. I’m hoping we can all find empathy in our hearts for our neighbors and other community members, regardless of our differences.

To add additional stress into an already difficult holiday season, we all have to deal with threats of fraud and theft. Below you will see some of the more common methods used to separate you from your hard-earned money. I’ve included some preventative measures that can assist you in preventing monetary or real property loss.

Package Theft: Some routines to consider for keeping your packages safe include: have your parcel delivered to your work; have your package delivered to the home of a relative or friend whom you know will be home; have your package held at your local post office for pickup; and take advantage of the “Ship to Store” option that many stores offer.

Text Message Scams:

1.     As with any scam, this particular ploy operates under many guises. Some suggest that you've signed up for a service that will cost “x” amount of dollars if you don't cancel the subscription by clicking through to a link in the message. Others might assume your bank's identity and ask you to "verify your PIN" to reactivate your debit card.

2.     If you've received an unsolicited text message like the examples described above, forward it to 7726 (or SPAM). This will direct all suspicious messages to your cellular provider and initiate an investigation.

3.     Next, you should immediately delete the message. Make sure not to respond to any prompts like "text message STOP" to end the messages. Doing so will alert spammers that the number is, in fact, active. For added peace of mind, call your bank to alert it of the incident.

Charity Scams: An unsolicited email is sent with a message that often tells a harrowing narrative that's believable and tied to a real natural disaster. At the end of the email, the sender requests a temporary loan from the would-be victim, with the promise to repay it as soon as the sender gets home.

Recipients are encouraged to wire the funds via Western Union or MoneyGram, only to find that the individual on the other end of the computer screen just got away with their cash. This emotional appeal can also take the form of an email soliciting donations under a well-known charity organization like the Red Cross.

Bail Bond Scam: You will receive a call from someone claiming that a close relative has been arrested in another state. This person may claim to be a bail bondsman who can help you get your loved one released from jail, but it will cost you a certain percentage of the bond upfront.

These people will be very persuasive and can be aggressive on the phone, so please do your research if you do not believe them. An approved bondsman will not take offense to your actions to check on them. This is a complicated scam to get past since we are all looking out for our family, especially at this time of year, but the following tips may be helpful.

Ensure you are dealing with a licensed bondsman. Bondsmen in Minnesota must be approved by the State Court Administrator’s Office and possess an insurance provider license.

If you suspect the person you are speaking with does not have either, get a number to call them back and notify the Cook County Sheriff’s Office at 218-387-3030.

If you are inclined to read the entire document, this link will give you a better understanding of bondsman requirements and criteria: https://mn.gov/elicense/a-z/?id=1083-231299#/list/appId//filterType//filterValue//page/1/sort//order/

We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service