How to protect yourself against identity theft and scams in Anchorage

Identity theft and scams can be a problem all around the world. Michelle Tabler, the Alaska Regional Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest, said identity theft can be mitigated by securing personal information.

The BBB Northwest focuses on scams occurring in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Idaho. New scams are popping up every day, and reiterations of old scams are also on the rise, Tabler said.

Scams include stolen information from credit card applications or buying knock-off items online. Other scams are made through phone calls, with a variety of approaches like claiming to be a child in prison or owing money to the IRS.

“The grandparent scam is one I hear about a lot. An elderly person will get a call either in the morning or late at night, when they are most incoherent, and claim they are their grandchild and they are in prison in Mexico and they need money to get out,” Tabler said.

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Louie Cuaderno, natural sciences major, recently had his card information stolen while using an ATM at a gas station on Spenard Road.

“I had just used my card to pay over at Chevron. Nothing really seemed wrong at the time, but as it turns out someone managed to get and use my card information. People are able to put a different card reader on the ATM, and that lets them steal your information,” Cuaderno said.

There are a number of red flags that can be spotted right away with a scam call. Scammers will say they need payments in the form of either a wire transfer or a gift card. Entities such as the IRS or a court system will never ask for payments, especially through these methods, Tabler said.

Phishing scams will send a request for your personal information that will look like it came from a legitimate entity.

“For a while, scam rates were significantly lower, but eventually they did start popping up more again,” Tabler said.

If you are contacted by a scammer you should hang up immediately Tabler said. If they are able to get you to talk, then most will put you on their call list so they can try to scam you again.

“The last time I was scammed was when I was a middle schooler in China. I am not really too worried about being scammed in America, you just have to pay attention to what you do and know where your information is going,” Dongqiang Liu, global logistics and supply chain management major, said.

Tabler says the BBB Northwest exists in part to educate the public so there is fairness in the marketplace.

“I don’t want to see more victims, so I try to get the word out as much as I can,” Tabler said.

If you are interested and want to look more into current scams or would like to report a scam, you can visit bbb.org/scamtracker/.

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