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Boise Police: Have 'The Talk' with family about scams this Thanksgiving

75 percent of adults in the U.S. have been targeted by scammers or experienced some form of fraud in the past, according to an AARP survey.

BOISE, Idaho — As people gather for Thanksgiving Day, the Boise Police Department is asking everyone to bring one more thing to the table: the conversations on scams.

"In this day in age, I would say to anybody that if you get a call that you're not expecting or a contact, you have to look through the lens that it's probably a fraud," said Detective Brad Thorne.

Thorne said he and other officers have been trying to warn people for years about scams, creating public service announcements and online tools about how to spot a scam. However, he said the number of people who fall victim continues to rise each year.

According to a survey from AARP, 75 percent of adults in the U.S. have been targeted or experienced a form of fraud in the past. Of that percentage, 35 percent have experienced fraud while shopping online and 34 percent report they have received fake shipment notifications.

"How do we get the information to the people that need it?" Thorne said. He added it made the agency come up with a different approach, which is how the campaign "The Talk" started.

Thorne explained officers aren't able to reach everyone, so he's hoping younger people who may be more tech-savvy can help get information and tips to loved ones who are most vulnerable.

"They can't just think that grandma and grandpa know about it," Thorne said. "During the holidays they can have that conversation just to see what they know is out there."

Thorne said asking relatives questions, like, "Have you ever received strange phone calls?" or "Have you been sent an email from someone you don't know?" can start these types of conversations. 

One of the biggest red flags Thorne would like brought up with family members is cold contact. He explained if a person or a "company" were to message or call a family member out of the blue or without prior contact to ask for personal information or money, it's likely a scam. 

He added it is not just older family members who can fall victim; everyone is a target when it comes to scammers.

"[Everybody] I know has been affected by a scam," Thorne said.

Dale Dixon, Chief Innovation Officer with the Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific, said another good starting point would be to bring up scams that are most prevalent during this time of year -- deals that are too good to be true and solicitations for donations to fake charities.

"We encourage people to take a step back, don't get excited about a great price and a promise of fast shipping. Do your research first," Dixon explained. He added the BBB has tools and resources on its website to check if a retailer or charity is reputable. 

If someone were to be contacted by a company or brand for a deal, Dixon said it may be worth going to the company's website directly rather than any external links via email, social media or text message. He explained scammers are getting better at creating fake or lookalike websites.

"Again, take a step back," Dixon said. "Look at the URL (web address), make sure you are dealing with a reputable business." 

Scammers do not limit their activities to the holiday season. Dixon warns with social media being prominent in many people's lives, it's good to stay alert whenever online any time of year. If someone were to get a phone call from an unknown number, he advises to not answer it.

"These scam artists are global entrepreneurs. They are working hard 24 hours a day, seven days a week using technology and psychology. They know how to get us to give up personal information, to give up money in situations and they're just looking for the right person, at the right place, at the right time," Dixon said. 

The Better Business Bureau advises if someone is unsure about whether something is a scam or not, that they reach out to a family member, neighbor or someone they trust.

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