Scammers targeting classifieds customers

Juneau man gives up debit card information to caller posing as an Empire representative

Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Avallon Gregg noticed a suspect $93 debit charge to PCS Inmate Calling Service on her fiancé's online bank statement Monday and knew something was amiss.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"I was thinking, 'He doesn't have any buddies in prison,'" Gregg said.

Scott Wilson, the fiancé, said the only thing he had used the debit card for recently was to help a classified advertising representative who called Sunday to fix some billing problems - or so he thought.

"At first, I didn't think it was legitimate, because it was a Sunday. But I thought maybe they're working for the Monday paper. ... I just didn't know what to think," Wilson said.

The couple pieced together that the caller, who sounded like a young man and identified himself as Malcolm, used the bogus pretense and gleaned a few pieces of information from a classified ad selling Wilson's truck to scam them. Wilson said his called ID said the number was withheld.

The Juneau Empire's classifieds desk received four calls from their customers Monday reporting similar suspicious calls and two more Tuesday. So far, only Wilson and Gregg said they'd divulged sensitive information.

They were fortunate in realizing their account had been compromised within 24 hours and after a single fraudulent charge.

"This is the first time anything like this has ever happened to us," Gregg said.

They froze the account are working through paperwork with their bank, Wells Fargo, to have the fraudulent charge expunged.

"What I should've done if a guy calls, said there's an issue with my account, I should've just said, 'That's fine, I work right down the road, and I'll swing by and handle it personally,'" Wilson said.

The inmate phone charge with Los Angeles-based PCS Inc. suggests Wilson's scammer was from out-of-state or had out-of-state ties. The Alaska Department of Corrections contracts with Dallas-based Securus Technologies for inmate phone services, corrections spokesman Richard Schmitz said.

• Contact Jeremy Hsieh at 523-2258 or e-mail

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