Here are the top 5 scams in Alaska

The Federal Trade Commission recently shared its 2023 fraud report, “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2023.” I looked at the data for Alaska and was shocked to see that 6,456 Alaskans reported losing 20.5 million dollars in 2023.

Impostor scams are the top reported fraud in Alaska, making up 22% of all reported scams. These scams generally start with an unsolicited call, email, text, or social media message posing as someone you trust—your bank, a business you know, or even a government agency. Criminals play on our emotions by creating fear or excitement, with urgent messages like “Your Social Security payments have been paused,” “There is an issue with your account,” or “You just won a big prize.” These messages create a heightened emotional state, which makes it hard to access logical thinking.

Don't trust caller ID or links in email or text messages. If you think it might be legitimate, contact the entity yourself using a trusted phone number.

Identity fraud is the second highest issue for Alaskans, making up 11% of reported scams in 2023. Criminals steal mail, hack corporate databases, or use deceptive emails, texts, websites and phone calls designed to convince people to share their personal information. They may sell your data or misuse it to open new accounts, take over existing accounts, or file for federal benefits.

Safeguard yourself by not sharing sensitive information with unsolicited contacts, avoiding clicking on suspicious or unexpected email and text links, and freezing your credit at the three credit bureaus.

Online shopping scams are the third biggest fraud in Alaska at 8% of reported scams. Criminals set up professional-looking websites offering popular items at a deep discount. When consumers purchase these “deals,” the product never arrives or is not what was advertised.

Be suspicious of any online offer that offers a deep discount over what other retailers offer. Do your online shopping with trusted retailers.

Rounding out the top five scams in Alaska are prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams at 6%, and internet services scams at 6%.

The Federal Trade Commission also has data on how scams are different for each age group. People between ages 30-49 are the most likely to be involved in a scam but they only lose on average $450. Compare this to those over age 80, who are the least likely to be involved in a scam but lose an average of $1,450.

Another interesting generational difference is in how scammers contact people and collect payment. For example, those age 20-29 are likely to be contacted through social media and pay using an app, but those over age 70 are most often contacted by phone and pay with a credit card or a gift card.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, you’re not alone. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network has many resources to help people who have been victims of scams, including the Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 800-908-3360 (open 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. AK time).

“The Perfect Scam” podcast features individuals sharing their scam stories and how they are resolved. That’s my personal favorite of the Fraud Watch Network resources. AARP also has bi-weekly watchdog email alerts that share information on the latest scams.

The Fraud Watch Network also offers free online support groups to those who have lost funds. AARP also collects reports of fraud and shows the data on an interactive map, so you can see what scams are being reported in your community. You can access this map by going to http://www.aarp.org/FWN.

Financial fitness webinar series begins April 19

AARP Alaska is hosting a four-part financial fitness webinar series on Fridays at 10 a.m. starting April 19. We will be delving deeper into these top scams in part two of that series on April 26. For details and to register, visit http://www.aarp.org/AK and scroll down to “Upcoming Events.”

Remember: If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam. For further information and resources, go to http://www.aarp.org/FWN.

Teresa Holt is the AARP Alaska State Director.

 
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