Scammer posing as Alaska State Trooper targets Anchorage couple
Investigators say a man pretending to be an Alaska State Trooper called an Anchorage couple, threatening jail time and demanding money.
Saturday evening David McFadden and Susan Luce came home to a voicemail from someone claiming to be a lieutenant with the Alaska State Troopers Office asking for Susan to call back as soon as possible.
"It sounded legitimate,” McFadden said.
The man said that Luce received a certified letter for jury duty that she signed it and did not appear. He said she was facing more than $1,000 in fines.
Luce never got that letter.
When the scammers called back, McFadden said he argued with the man on the phone and then hung up, but eventually called the number back. McFadden was met with a recording and put on hold several times, but was then put on the phone with a man who said he was a captain with the department, which made him feel like he was talking to the first man's supervisor.
The captain told the couple they could fix the fine by going and grabbing money from an ATM. After the couple told the man on the phone they didn’t use ATMs, he told them to bring cash cards to trooper headquarters to pay for them, to call before coming in on Monday morning and to ask for him by name.
When Monday morning came around, Luce and McFadden went to the Alaska State Trooper counter with the cards in hand. McFadden said the woman at the front desk looked puzzled and asked them to wait.
"The trooper comes out, who was very decent, and says it looks like you are being scammed," McFadden said.
Trooper Nasruk Nay called the number left by the scammers.
"It sounds like a legitimate business number that you might call and prompt you in just the way that the real thing would, but this isn't real,” he said. "This is the lengths that the scammers will go to to appear to be legitimate and to a person who's already in a precarious position in their mind and feeling panicked and anxious. It sounds pretty real."
According to Alaska State Troopers, similar scams have taken place in other communities across Alaska.
Nay explained to the couple what had happened and tried to help them get their money back, since the money was still on the money cards.
"The potential loss to this family today was over $1,400," Nay said. "Based upon the fact that they're going to have to get their money back through actually using that debit card, and paying the administrative fees, they are losing something, but not nearly what they potentially would have lost had they fallen for the scam."
This incident left McFadden and Luce shocked, questioning why they were targeted by the scammers.
“I wondered how they got our name and number,” Luce said. “Maybe they just picked us out of a hat, I don’t know.”
This is something they never thought could happen to them, but 69-year-old Luce and 67-year-old McFadden realize this scam could fool a lot of older Alaskans.
“I just think elderly people are more respectful of authority,” McFadden said. “Like, I stepped in on the conversation because it just didn't seem right to me, OK, but I don't know what would've gone down if I hadn't stepped in."
The scary part for the couple — the scammers got their address.
“Some of these scammers could actually be waiting for us at some point, knowing that we were either carrying cash or cards easily convertible to cash,” McFadden said.
Even though they’ve gone through a stressful situation, the couple chose to share their story. Luce said they don't want this to happen to someone else who isn't as lucky.
“I just know that there’s bad cookies in the world that will take advantage of you,” McFadden said.
According to Nay, AST will not ask for payment over the phone, offer to negotiate for reduced payment in lieu of arrest, or ask that payments be made using prepaid debit cards that are obtained from convenience stores.
If people are concerned there may be a warrant for their arrest with AST, they can check the active warrants website.
Local law enforcement agencies might also be able to verify if a warrant is in existence and obtain information on how to correctly deal with the situation.
On Wednesday, the Anchorage Police Department sent a release warning of a similar scam, stating someone was calling residents saying the person had a warrant for not appearing for jury duty, telling them to pay in gift cards and to deliver them to the police station. APD stated it will never call anyone over the phone and request payment for anything.
"The Caller ID showing up on the citizens’ phones during these calls are sometimes legitimate APD phone numbers. The number currently being used is 786-8811 which is APD’s Recruiting and Backgrounds phone number. The suspect caller is also providing a callback number of 907-290-3004. That is not a legitimate APD phone number, but if you call it, an automated message claims that number does belong to APD."
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