There has been a huge uptick in scams and frauds both nationally and in Alaska. State Attorney General Treg Taylor said that the numbers have grown exponentially this year. Noting that many people don’t report when they have been successfully scammed, he said that around 4,000 Alaskans reported losing money to fraud last year.
“And basically, that amounts to $5.8 million in the state of Alaska,” Taylor said. “And what we’ve noticed, the uptick to be considerable. Just in the first three months of 2021 we’ve seen 1,360 Alaskans and a loss of $2.8 million.”
At this rate, Alaskans will lose about twice as much money to scams and fraud as they did last year. And Taylor said that much of this is coming from organizations outside the country.
“And since most of the scammers, the bad actors, reside outside of the state and most even reside outside of the country, it has to be addressed at a federal level,” Taylor said.
Alaska’s attorney general has joined with most of the other attorneys general in the country to support beefing up the ability to fight fraud by urging Congress to pass the “Fraud and Scam Reduction Act”. The act would give more tools to the Federal Trade Commission by centralizing all the different organizations involved in monitoring and responding to fraud within one committee at the Bureau of Consumer Protection. The committee would assist in monitoring scams targeting older adults, and in educating consumers and receiving complaints. The bill would also create more robust education efforts to help seniors who are targeted by most of the scamming operations.
Taylor said that lot of the illegal activity is occurring by phone, internet, and even by mail, involving someone pretending to be from the government, a family member, or even the Alaska unemployment office claiming that they sent out too big a check and want you to pay money back to them.
“The scam is to get that overpayment back. Or suffer some harsh penalty: losing your benefits, for example, or being sent to jail," Taylor said.
Taylor pointed to three ways to spot a scam. If it requires immediate action, don’t believe it. If it is too good to be true, or too bad to be true, it is a fraud. And if you’re being told to transfer funds quickly or through unusual methods, it is a scam. Hang up the phone and report it to the authorities.
The Fraud and Scam Reduction Act made it through the U.S. House of Representatives in about two months and is in the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to pass quickly