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Scams costing Montanans millions

Issouf Sanogo
AFP via Getty Images

Montanans are losing millions of dollars in phone and online scams, and the number of shady deals is increasing.

Yellowstone Public Radio's Orlinda Worthington gives us the biggest warning from police departments right now.

Quinn Ellingson is a detective with the Bozeman police department. He says they get fraud cases reported everyday.

But something unusual happened on May third.

“It's just not frequently that we see a lot of frauds come in that total over a million dollars of financial loss in just a single day or two,” said Ellingson.

He says people beginning conversations online with others they don’t know is the biggest danger.

“The person who is creating the fraud, they’re very good and get lots of dialogue going with the individual. And feel like they're truly emotionally connected with the individual who's scamming 'em, and these can go on for months and sometimes even a year or two,” he said.

Detective Ellingson says it all begins with a small ask… a late fee or money for a construction project project that once it's paid will generate a bunch of money and they'll get paid back right away.

Quinn says, “We've seen that number run a half a million to a million or more at times before the person who's being scammed finally realizes that one, the person that they've fallen in love with is not real and that they’re never going to see any of their money returned to them.”

Ellingston says racketeers often transfer the money very quickly outside the United States, where the department has no jurisdiction. Still, it’s important to contact your local authorities if you think you have fallen victim to a scam.

Ellingson says they’re not sure why so many scams happened on one day… but it’s always best to never send money online to someone you have not met in person.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.