Educational tour on stopping scammers stops in Mason City Wednesday evening

MASON CITY — The state’s insurance commissioner and a representative of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office will be in Mason City Wednesday evening as part of an 18-stop statewide fraud prevention series.

AARP director Brad Anderson says the latest scam uses A-I to fool elderly Iowans. “A criminal impersonates a grandchild and uses artificial intelligence to impersonate that grandchild’s phone, or even the grandchild’s voice,” he explains, “and calls a well-intentioned grandparent and then scams that grandparent out of thousands of dollars.”

This is a new version of what are called imposter scams. “Imposter scams, according to the F-T-C had been the dominant scam in Iowa for nine years running. Nine years running, and that beats out credit-based scams, it beats out investor scams, online shopping scams,” Anderson says.

Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen says they hope to update Iowans on the issue. “Our effort in this tour is really to get out into communities to talk to people about what it is they can do to spot a scam. But also, once you’ve reported a scam, what you can expect from law enforcement in dealing with that,” Ommen says. 

He says his office has worked with securities broker dealers and investment advisors in our state for years to help with scams in these areas.  “Our laws allow those financial professionals to report financial exploitation. And that allows us then to make sure that individuals that are being targeted for a romance scam or a charity scam or a gift card scam or any of the number of scans that scammers tried to perpetrate on Iowans — we can we can intervene and make every effort to stop that.”

He says their new Department of Insurance and Financial Services has people working with the banking industry and the credit union industry to bring them into this effort to protect older Iowans. Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird says the scammers don;t care how old you are, they just want to get your money. “We’ve seen people lose their life savings to a scam and that is absolutely heartbreaking. We want to do everything we can to try to help and we always try to get the money back if we possibly can,” Bird says.

She says getting the money back is not easy, especially if the scam is run from a foreign country. “Many scammers are overseas. But there are also scammers right here in the state,” Bird says. “And those folks can be very dangerous when they come to pick up their ill gotten gains in person. It makes me very concerned. So we urge Iowans if you think there might be a scam, please call law enforcement, please call our office and we will do what we can to help.” Bird says nationwide ten billion dollars was stolen in 2023 by scammers, and that’s just the scams that were reported.

The “Stop the Scammer Roadshow” will be held Wednesday evening at 5 o’clock in the Mason City Room of the Public Library. Click here to find out more about the event and to sign up.