Fraudulent phone calls have been spiking in Juneau recently, according to a Juneau Police Department release, and one family went through a harrowing fake kidnapping situation this week.
On Wednesday, a woman called a Juneau woman at work, informing her that she had missed jury duty and had a warrant out for her arrest. The main JPD number appeared as the caller ID — a technique known as “spoofing” — so the woman believed it was legitimate.
The caller gave the woman instructions on how to turn herself in to JPD, and asked for the woman’s cellphone number so they could stay on the line as the woman drove to the police department. The woman did just that, and stayed on the phone as she drove to the station.
During the phone call, the woman spoke with both the original caller and a man, and divulged some personal information. The callers quickly used this personal information — and the cellphone number — for their main scheme.
The callers phoned the woman’s family, using her cellphone number to “spoof” their call to make it look like the family was getting a call from the woman’s cellphone. The callers told the family that they had kidnapped the woman, holding her for ransom and detailing the ways they would harm her if they did not receive their monetary demand.
Fortunately, the family never ended up figuring out the scheme and no money was exchanged. Nobody was harmed, either, but it was a harrowing experience for the woman and her family.
This woman and her family are not alone. At least five people have reported attempts at telephone fraud and harassment to JPD in the past three weeks, according to a JPD release. Calls have also come from imposters pretending to be utility employees and court employees.
With such a rush of fraudulent phone calls recently, JPD encourages people to carefully protect their personal information. If there’s any doubt about a caller’s legitimacy, JPD advises people to hang up and call the company or agency directly at a published phone number.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps a list of common frauds and scams on its website under the “Scams and Safety” tab. The FBI also accepts reports over the phone or online.
People who believe suspects are pretending to be government employees, family members, friends or other trustworthy individuals can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Financial fraud can be reported at www.stopfraud.gov.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.