AG warns of scam artists

Posted: Thursday, November 03, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Scam artists pretending to be from the court clerk's office are targeting Alaskans, state Attorney General David Marquez said.

Authorities fear Alaskans, particularly members of the military, could be victimized by the telephone con artists.

Marquez said a person claiming to be a court clerk calls and says a bench warrant has been issued because the person did not show up for jury duty.

"The scammer will then reassure the victim of the possibility this is all 'just a misunderstanding' or 'some sort of clerical error' that can all be easily corrected if the victim will simply 'verify' their information with a few simple questions," according to the Department of Law.

The scammer then tries to get as much personal information as possible, including Social Security number, date of birth, and credit card or bank account numbers, claiming they will be used by a credit bureau to verify the victim's identity, officials said.

People who balk at the scammer's request for information are told they will be arrested.

"Family members who receive these calls are especially vulnerable to coercion," the Law Department said, especially if the family is a military one, because threats against a victim's military career are frightening and persuasive.

Assistant Attorney General Ed Sniffen said a handful of Coast Guard members in Kodiak reported getting called by scammers. He did not know if they had fallen for the fraud.

Sniffen said the con is an incarnation of the "phishing" scam, in which people claim to be from a telephone company or bank or credit card company, all in an attempt to steal personal information.

This one is particularly egregious, he said, because the scammers claim to be state officials.

Marquez encouraged anyone who hears from the scammers to call their police. Those with caller ID should record the scammer's telephone number.

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