Last Monday, I had the opportunity to interview Commissioner Troy Downing and two members of the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance's Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST).
It was very disheartening to hear about some of the Montanans affected by scams, including one senior citizen who took out a $200,000 home equity line of credit and now has no funds to repay the loan.
Unfortunately, in a world where nearly everyone has access to a smartphone or computer, the scams are increasing and getting more sophisticated.
In 2023, the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office warned residents about a scam where a caller impersonates someone from their office with a cloned number and sometimes the name of a deputy. Another scam reported by the GCSO was a "Vehicle Services Division" scam where residents receive a letter telling them their vehicle coverage is about to expire.
This is very scary stuff, especially when technology is involved, and even more so when someone is attempting to fool someone into thinking they are with law enforcement. This is also happening with calls where someone claims they are from the IRS.
After the interview last week, the best advice I could share with the readers of the Voice is that when someone calls you unsolicited and claims they are law enforcement or a government agency and are asking for money, report them immediately. These agencies would never be calling someone to ask for money.
If you hear of a scam circulating, please let others know, especially those who might be more trusting of an unsolicited call.
People must remain vigilant about scams because they are getting so sophisticated and starting to use artificial intelligence to clone people's voices which is happening with "grandchildren" scams.
And if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Technology can be a great thing, but it is also scary.
If you suspect a scam, report it. If you hear someone you know talking about a call or mail they received, let them know it is most likely a scam. Don't ever be pressured by someone saying you need to act immediately.
It will be hard to catch and prosecute many of these people, but with awareness and vigilance, things will be much better.