Fake ‘trooper’ scamming peninsula residents

Alaska State Troopers are warning Kenai Peninsula residents to be aware of a scam in which a caller pretends to be a trooper.

Recently, a number of people have reported that someone claiming to be an officer named Trooper Turnbull has been calling Alaskans and saying they have outstanding arrest warrants and need to pay to have them cleared. The caller then often asks the person to purchase a prepayment card and read the numbers to him over the phone, which can’t be traced or undone, said Trooper Ryan Tennis of the Soldotna post. There is no Trooper Turnbull, he said.

Some victims are losing hundreds of dollars — he said one victim lost about $1,500, while others have lost around $900, and there’s essentially no chance to get the money back, he said.

“It’s coming up to Christmas — that’s pretty devastating for people,” he said. “That’s a (Permanent Fund) Dividend.”

The victims he has spoken to say there are red flags throughout the conversation that should have tipped them off that it was a scam — for instance, “Trooper Turnbull” pronounces Kenai and Soldotna incorrectly, Tennis said. The scammer also works to keep people on the phone so they don’t have the chance to call and verify with anyone else about the warrants, he said.

The scam has been going on around Alaska since at least November 2015 to victims all over the state, according to an Alaska State Troopers Facebook post from Nov. 20, 2015. Alaska State Troopers will never ask for payment over the phone, nor would they ever negotiate for payment in lieu of an arrest, according to the post. Reports of similar scams, sometimes called “arrest warrant scams,” have circulated all over the country for several years.

Tennis encouraged people to at least Google the situation or check social media to see if someone else has experienced a similar scam. Any active warrants can also be found on Courtview, Alaska’s public online court information system.

“(People) can look their own name up in Courtview,” he said. “It’d show up on our system. Don’t just send money.”

People who receive the calls should pay attention to the red flags and always call a second source to verify if they think they are being scammed. Other types of scams, such as the Publishers Clearinghouse, require people to submit payment to “unlock” money the scammers say they have won in a contest, another warning, Tennis said.

Alaska State Troopers don’t keep a running list of ongoing scams, but they can help people with information if other have reported a similar scam.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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