County forum to address scams

ALPENA –Anyone can be the target of a scam or hacking in today’s world. People who aren’t educated on how to protect themselves put their identity, finances or even safety in danger.

In order to help people recognize when they are being targeted for ill-will purposes, Alpena County will host a forum geared toward helping residents understand when a scam is taking place and how to react.

County Clerk Bonnie Friedrichs said the free event is slated for noon to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 25th in the lobby of the courthouse, 719 W. Chisholm St.

Several county officials will address residents on the many ways crooks can target people and what the potential ramifications could be. Friedrichs said the event will also help people detect and respond to scam attempts.

“We will cover identity theft, computer security, Smart 911, how to safeguard vital records, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates, and how important they are, and that they shouldn’t just be given to anyone who requests them,” Friedrichs said. “A lot of identity theft starts because someone got their hands on a birth certificate, because that opens doors to a lot of avenues to getting other information.”

Friedrichs said scammers are becoming more advanced and, because of the improvements of technology, the scams often appear very legitimate. She said more people than ever are receiving phone calls and emails that are bogus and aimed at people they hope will fall sucker to their plots.

Just the other day, Friedrichs said, she received an email that appeared to be from county Board of Commissioners Chairman Brad McRoberts asking her to transfer $78,000 and claiming it would provide vendor and other information in follow-up correspondence.

Friedrichs knew the email was fake, although it looked quite authentic. She reached out to McRoberts to alert him of the scam attempt. She said county employees are trained to spot suspicious-looking emails and other possible scams, helping to prevent the county from falling victim to one.

“The email looks legit, and if you don’t pay close attention, you can open it and sometimes people may do what the message asks,” Friedrichs said. “Even the phone calls now can look like they are from Alpena because they have the same numbers. The county just wants to help share the information we have to help people protect themselves so they don’t get taken advantage of.”

On Friday, the Michigan State Police issued a news release, warning of a new scam that could hijack personal data and contacts in email.

“Recent emails have had subject lines that include terms such as ‘Invoice’ or ‘Receipt,'” the MSP said. “The email contains an attachment or link to download a PDF, MS Word or Excel document that contains malware. Recent infections have been a result of the Emotet virus. Once infected, the virus has been known to steal contact information from any email address book that the user maintains, which allows the scammer to send spoofed emails to the user’s contacts. Other side effects of the malware include the stealing of passwords or banking information, encryption of user files and spreading of the virus to other computers that may be connected to the user’s network.”

The Michigan Cyber Command Center recommends carefully screening all emails prior to clicking links or opening any attachments. Any email with attachments or embedded web links should be handled with care until the recipient can verify the authenticity of the email. Users should consider if they are expecting an email or document from the “sender” prior to opening any attachments or clicking on any links, the MSP said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.

If you go

∫ WHAT: Informational forum on how to protect yourselves from scams and hacking

∫ WHEN: Noon to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 25

∫ WHERE: Lobby of the courthouse, 719 W. Chisholm St.

∫ HOW MUCH: Free

∫ INFO: Alpena County employees will provide information on how to spot and respond to potential scams. For more information, call 989-354-9520.