BISMARCK — Nearly 100 North Dakota residents have reported losses of more than $2.1 million to scams so far this year, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Friday, Aug. 30.

North Dakotans have been duped into thinking they won money through the lottery or sweepstakes, that their grandchild or young relative is in an emergency or that they were eligible for a government grant.

Stenehjem's office said 16 victims have lost $1.3 million so far this year through "romance scams" in which con artists create fake identities on dating websites and chat rooms. They trick the victim into thinking they're in a real relationship and then claim a short-term financial crisis and promise to pay the money back in a few days.

The majority of the scam victims were over 65 years old, but the next highest age group were young adults, according to Stenehjem's office.

The attorney general's office warned that no government agency will ever ask people to purchase prepaid gift cards or send money and won't call out of the blue and threaten arrest. The office warned against being too trusting of somebody you've never met.

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Before giving money or personal information, the attorney general's office advised North Dakotans to talk to a family member, a trusted friend or its consumer protection division at (701) 328-3404 or toll-free at (800) 472-2600.