FBI reports rise in scams in Alaska, provides tips for staying safe

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 4:13 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Anchorage FBI Field Office has reported a rise in scams in Alaska and is providing tips on how to stay safe.

According to the FBI, Alaska has seen increases in both phone call and online scams in the last year.

Melissa Vanek, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI says that over 2,000 scams have been reported in the last year. Vanek explained, “We recently had the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is our FBI complaint center for cyber-related crime, and they released their 2020 internet crime report. Based on that report we were able to look at the statistics that were specific to the state of Alaska, and based on that report we saw over 2,300 victims reported crimes to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or Of those 2,300 victims, over half of them were 50 years or older, and they reported losses of more than $6 million.”

While there are a number of fraud schemes that prey upon Alaskan citizens, three are the most prominent.

Vanek said, “The top three frauds that we saw from the 2020 report were intellectual property rights and counterfeiting, extortion - we’ve had increase in sextortion and ransomware as it relates to extortion, and then non-payment, non-delivery scams which is typically where a victim buys an item and pays for the item but does not receive the item, or a victim is selling a product or service and does not receive payment for the item or service once it’s delivered.”

According to Vanek, the rise in reported scams can be attributed to more people being at home or by a computer. ”Based on my experience, I believe that the increase is due in part to the rise of teleworking and distance learning that resulted from the COVID pandemic last year. So more people were at home and on the internet, and as a result more victims could be targeted by the fraudsters.”

Vanek explained that there are warning signs an individual can look out for to be safe and avoid falling victim to one of these scams. “Basically people should be wary of receiving anything unsolicited via call or email. So If someone calls and is asking for your personal information, or your financial information, or telling you that you owe money, and it’s unsolicited, it’s not something you have initiated, be incredibly skeptical of that - that is a big red flag. We’ve seen a rise in impersonation scams lately where an individual claiming to be a part of a law enforcement agency or government agency is making an unsolicited call or email where they are demanding payment, or claiming that the victims are going to be arrested, and they are also asking for financial and personal information. No legitimate law enforcement or government agency will make an unsolicited call or email demanding payment or requesting financial or personal information,” said Vanek.

Another helpful tip: if an unsolicited caller claims to be part of a business or organization demanding payment or information, hang up and call the public phone number for the business or organization that claimed to have called you.

If an individual discovers a scamming attempt, Vanek says they can report what they’ve found to the FBI. “If something seems fishy or skeptical about a call or email or something online that you’ve come across, the best thing to do is to immediately report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center which is, and you can file an online complaint, and list all the details of what you’ve encountered. Then that information will be sent out to the various field offices impacted. Here in Alaska it would be our Anchorage field office. That way, we can see the different types of frauds that are evolving or emerging in Alaska, and then obviously we can work to impact and combat those frauds.”

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