FBI warns of more phone scams

Posted: Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Beware telephone callers bearing rich gifts.

Anchorage FBI agent Eric Gonzales says Juneau is currently under concentrated attack from confidence men and scam artists.

``We have seen recently that Juneau has been targeted by telemarketing schemes involving lotteries and sweepstakes,'' Gonzales said. ``A lot (of the schemes) are originating out of Canada, and seem to be targeting the elderly in particular.''

A typical phone call informs the recipient that he or she has ``won a prize.'' That dangling carrot may be as much as $250,000. The catch is that the ``winner'' needs to send money via Western Union, for example, to pay customs charges and taxes. Those customs charges and taxes usually range from $2,000 to $5,000, Gonzales said.

``Anyone who has legitimately won something will never be asked to provide cash up front,'' he said.

The lottery and sweepstakes scam has victimized people across the United States, Gonzales said. To date, the FBI had not received reports of its success in Juneau. But the con may have worked here.

``Often the person knows it's a scam and hangs up, so the (attempted theft) goes unreported. Or victims realize they are victims and are embarrassed. So it's hard to put numbers on these cases,'' he said.

Notifying the FBI of attempted rip-offs is crucial to arresting the culprits, he said.

A second scam being used on Juneau residents involves assuming their identity to access their credit or cash. In this scam, the typical phone call comes from someone who represents himself as a security officer for a credit card company, and tries to ``verify the one piece of information he needs to take over your identity.'' That might be a credit card account number, a bank account number or a Social Security number.

``Please,'' Gonzales said, ``your (real) company already knows that information. Never provide personal information.''

To protect oneself, the consumer should be alert and consider posing his or her own questions. Ask the caller's name, phone number and address, and verify who he or she is. Or pass that information on to the police or FBI.

The Juneau FBI office may be reached at 463-3461. Gonzales can be reached at (907) 276-4441.

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