Fairbanks Police discuss signs of ‘spoofing’ scams

Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 4:49 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Police Department (FPD) issued a statement warning residents to be on the lookout of “spoofing” scams, including what signs to be on alert for.

According to Richard Sweet, Deputy Chief of FPD, a resident in Fairbanks had recently been the victim of one of these scams.

“FPD has received a couple calls notifying us of the similar incident,” Sweet remarked. “They’re a little bit different in how they come across, but a couple people have received a phone call from a person claiming to be me, the deputy chief, by name. The phone number that they’re using is a number from the Fairbanks Police Department. I think in this case it was the main line and not necessarily my line, but it was a valid FPD number that is coming across. The person on the other end tells the person that they’re contacting that they have warrants that they may or may not be aware of, and that they can get out of the warrants and can get out of going to jail if they stay on the line. They go to their bank and withdraw money, and then they’re supposed to go and buy cards. [Then] they’ll either tell you... in this particular incident it was an Apple ID that they were supposed to send [the money] to. Then another one, it was the Walgreens Green Card.”

Sweet continued, “They’ll say they’ll keep you on the line, they’ll threaten you, and then they’ll ask you to scratch off the back and give them the numbers, and then tell them what those are. In this particular instance, there was one that was $5,000 that they were asking for in fines, and the other was $9,500 in fines. The one commonality is that they’ll tell them that they can’t hang up. If they do, the police are going to show up immediately and the deal that they’re offering is off. The other thing is that they’ll tell them that if they tell anybody then they’re going to get an additional criminal charge or they’re interfering with the criminal investigation, and they can’t talk to anyone.”

These calls rely on ‘spoofing’, in which one disguises their phone number to look like another. To identify if a caller may be looking to commit fraud, there are some red flags to be on the look out for.

“The first of these is [we are] never going to ask you for money - the Fairbanks police, State Troopers,” Sweet elaborated. “No law enforcement agency can take any money to get you out of a bench warrant. So if they’re claiming that you’ve been served by a judge, you have to stand in front of the judge in some way. No law enforcement agency would ever accept anything that’s a gift card, iTunes account, the Green Dot cards, the Walmart cards and any of those kinds of cards. If they’re asking for those right up front, if they’re saying they want to stay on the line with you till you go and withdraw money from your bank account, that’s an automatic red flag. You should just hang up on him.”

If a resident is suspicious that a call is coming from a illegitimate source, there is a simple way to confirm whether or not the call is fake according to Sweet. “The way you counter... the other side of it is if you’re not really sure, you can always hang up the phone and tell them ‘I’m going to call you back,’ and then don’t call the number that they give you. Call the actual agency - Alaska State Trooper, Fairbanks police officer or North Pole police officer or whatever other agencies - call the main line to that and get to dispatch, and then you they can direct you to the actual officer. What a lot of times you find is if it’s at night, the officer may not even be on shift. Officers are never gonna call you if they’re not on shift. They’re not sitting at home calling people.”

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