JONESBORO — As scamming schemes are on the rise in Arkansas, Connor Hagan, public affairs officer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Little Rock, said its important for people to contact the FBI and report it.
“We encourage people to report these cases,” he said, noting victims can navigate to www.ic3.gov and file a complaint.
Hagan said victims can also call the FBI office in Little Rock at 501-221-9100.
“Someone can connect them with the National Threat Operation Center who will take the tips and write up the details.”
Hagan said not only does this information assist with catching criminals, but also helps the FBI identify trends they can notify the public about.
Arkansas State University students and staff recently have been been subjected to scammers.
In a Vimeo video, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse warned the Red Wolf pack to send suspicious email and text messages to the information technology department at A-State.
“Students and employees are receiving more and more scam emails and text messages,” he said in the video.
“It isn’t just at A-State and the advice I have to offer applies to anyone,” he said. “Before you click a link in an email or text message, ask yourself are you sure this is from a trusted source.”
Graduate student Lindsay Keeter also posted a Vimeo video about her experience as the recipient of phishing emails she received to her student email account.
“So I received an email to my student email address. It was one of the very first emails I had gotten as a (graduate) student,” Keeter said.
The email said it was from a professor, she said, noting it was not an A-State email, but a personal Gmail address.
“It said there was an urgent need for graduate assistants to do research over the summer,” she said.
Keeter warned A-State students to listen to their instincts.
“Be careful, listen to your gut. There are people, even over the summer, that are there at the college that can answer questions. Just send (the emails or text messages) to them, ask lots of questions, and don’t be quick to make a decision,” she said.
Arkansas State University staff and students are not the only ones getting phishing texts and emails. Within the last few months, warnings about phishing scams have been issued on both state and local levels.
In April, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office issued a warning on the state website to all Arkansas residents to be on the lookout for suspicious phishing text messages.
“Scam artists are using an old email scam to steal from Arkansans right from their phones,” Rutledge said in the release.
Even Craighead County residents fell victim to scammers earlier this year.
Also in April, Circuit Clerk Candace Edwards said her office was flooded with phone calls from constituents claiming they were told to pay a fine of $450 for failing to report for jury duty, and $550 for a contempt of court order.
“I called the phone number they left a message with and got a recording that said this was Sgt. Chris Counts with the Craighead County Sheriff’s office and leave a message,” Edwards told The Sun.
So far this year, Hagan said the FBI has had 152 reports of spoofing scams, and 154 reports of phishing scams.
“Those are just the ones reported to the FBI,” he said.
The victim loss in 2020, Hagan said, was $126,284 by residents to spoofing scams and $313,771 in phishing scams.
“The numbers are going up in a big way,” he said, noting in 2019, there were 105 phishing victims, and 119 spoofing victims reported.
“There was $188,000 lost by people to phishing scams, and $1.5 million to spoofing scams in 2019 just in Arkansas,” he said. “We can put the victims in touch with victim specialists, but if they have already sent the money, it’s tough to get that back.”
Hagan said there are several different types of scams, including phishing scams in which someone uses emails to get personal information, vishing scams where scammers use phone calls, smishing scams where scammers use text messages to obtain information, and pharming scams where scammers download malicious software code installed on your computer.
“This may route you to a fake website where hackers can obtain your personal information,” Hagan said.
Each scam has the same theme, someone is using tactics to gain personal information or steal money from the victims.
Hagan said most of the scams are actually overseas crime rings.
“We work with Interpol and other agencies,” he noted.”We have white collar squads and internet squads who investigate these crimes.”
Hagan said there are several ways people can protect themselves from having information stolen.
“Be really careful about what information you share online,” he said. “Be careful about pet’s names, posting what city you are born in, and what your mom’s maiden name is. These are all questions banks ask in their security questions.”
Hagan said these criminals are not dumb. “They take the time, and can dig through the internet just like you can, and they take the time.”