Old Scams are New Again with Personalization
The Consumer Protection Unit of the Alaska Attorney General’s Office warns Alaska that scam phone calls are on the rise in Alaska, and they come with a new, personalized slant. Several victims have reported being taken for thousands of dollars in recent weeks by scammers who have taken old scams to a whole new level.
An Alaskan lost $4,000 to scammer claiming to be her grandson being held in jail. The grandparent scam has been around for several years, with a scammer calling claiming to be a grandchild or other relative who needs money fast. The grandparent is instructed to wire money or to buy gift cards and read the numbers to the person on the phone in order to get a relative in “trouble” out of jail or home from another country. Later, the grandparent discovers that the grandchild was never in trouble at all. By that time, the money is gone.
The new twist on the scam is that the grandparent in Alaska needed her grandson to be a pallbearer at a family funeral. The scammer used information easily available online to personalize the scam, calling at a critical time when the victim was likely to upset and easily confused or tricked into acting without checking. Any Alaskan receiving a call that a relative is in trouble should immediately hang up and call known numbers to check in with family before sending money.
An Alaska was recently tricked into giving money to a scammer falsely claiming to have kidnapped a family member. The key to this and many other scams is the ability of the fraudsters to “spoof” numbers on caller id’s with computer software. This made the number look like the call was coming from the “kidnapped” family member’s phone, convincing the victim that the story was true. After emptying banks accounts to pay for ransom, it turned out that the family member was safe all along.
The Better Business Bureau has warned that the Nigerian bank account scam has recently been personalized using information about professionals easily obtained online. The scam comes in the form of a letter or email that the victim is being issued a large check on a foreign bank account and if they will cash the check and submit a portion of the money back by wire, they can keep some percentage for themselves. The check is phony, so the victim is wiring his or her own money away and will not get it back.
The scam is back after scammers found fresh success by emailing nurses that the check was issued because a foreign prince, dignitary or rich person received excellent care in a health care facility and wanted to reward a caregiver. Alaskan caregivers and other professionals are warned not to fall for a phony “reward” check.
Alaskans buying a home are warned that due to the public nature of closing information, scammers may contact you immediately prior to closing to “redirect” your down payment or closing costs, causing the loss of the money needed to close on the home. Beware of any calls giving new wiring information. Hang up the phone and contact your title company to get accurate information for the payment of costs associated with buying a home.
With tax season comes IRS scammers. If Alaskans are contacted by anyone claiming to be from the IRS, hang up and use IRS.gov to contact the IRS directly about current or past due tax liability. The IRS will never ask you to pay an IRS bill with gift cards or money cards, or by wiring money.
The increasing availability of personal information on the internet has facilitated more creativity in scammers attempts to separate Alaskan’s from their money. Be wary of any call or email that urges you to send money immediately and without recourse, by wire or cash. Never buy gift cards to pay government debts, fees or bills. The State of Alaska will never ask you to pay the state using gift cards or money cards. Please report scams and scam attempts to the Consumer Protection Unit online using our consumer complaint form.
Consumer Protection Unit