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AARP AARP States North Dakota Scams & Fraud

Grand Forks man warns of online scam


When Michael V. of Grand Forks realized he’d been scammed on Facebook he was understandably upset. Not only was he out more than $500, he felt foolish. With the scam still floating out there, he wants to make sure others don’t fall prey to it.

It began when he played a game that purportedly came with a cash prize shared by someone he thought was an acquaintance.

“Admittedly I should have been more skeptical, but this person and I had mutual social media friends, including my pastor, so I initially gave him the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

The person claimed to be involved in an online business that sponsors puzzles, and other games on social media. When people engage and post the correct answer, a contact (this person he thought he knew) reaches out to tell them that they won a cash prize.

Michael says, “that’s when the fun starts.”

First, he was asked for an $85 deposit using a cash app in order to get the prize; then a request for $150 arrived, and later $300. They finally ask for $500 – all for fees tied to the game. All along, he was promised a payout of anywhere from $5,000 to $7,500.

“I should have known better,” Michael says. But when he questioned his “friend” about the legitimacy of the fees, the friend reassured him. “He kept telling me that he wasn’t out to scam me, he showed me his license.”

Michael eventually asked his pastor about their supposed mutual friend. The pastor knew him only in passing and advised Michael to avoid dealings with him. Michael cut off contact.

Michael is definitely not alone. Online scams are increasing. A new report from the Federal Trade Commission notes that consumers lost a record-breaking $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021 for a 70 percent year-over-year increase. According to the North Dakota Attorney General’s office, social media scams in the state usually fall into the following categories.

  • Shopping on social media: A consumer orders an item via a social media link and either never receives it or receives an item they did not order, usually shipped from overseas. If the consumer contacts their credit card company to dispute the charge the “merchant” will provide a tracking number and the dispute is often rejected.
  • Marketplace buyer scam: A consumer sells an item on Marketplace and the form of payment provided by the “buyer” bounces.
  • Fake job: A consumer responds to a fake job listing; typically associated with work from home opportunities.
  • Contests and gift cards: A consumer receives a message from a friend about a contest/sweepstakes/lottery or asking for help in purchasing a gift card. Often the friend’s account was hacked.

Michael realizes that as far as scams go, he got off relatively lightly. He knows it could have been much worse, and he wants to make sure no one else is fooled.

“The moral of the story is that if it’s too good be true it is. That, and if someone tells you they know your friend, check with your friend.”

If you think you have fallen victim to any type of scam, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 for guidance and support, or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at

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