Phone scam makes appearance in Soldotna

A Soldotna woman helped her neighbor avoid being the victim of a phone scam this week.

Heidi Haberman said her older neighbor, Lorna Bunch, contacted her after she got a call from someone telling her she had won a prize from Publishers Clearing House earlier this week, though she did not know the exact day. The two women soon realized the call was part of a scam, as the person on the phone requested that Bunch wire transfer $461 before her prize could be collected.

“He was tying to tell her that she won a million dollars and a black Cadillac,” Haberman said.

When Haberman called the number back, she found it had originated from Kingston, Jamaica.

Soldotna Police have gotten two calls about the same scam in the last two days, not including the incident with Haberman’s neighbor. Unless the scam perpetrator is in Alaska or can be tracked to another state, however, local law enforcement can’t do anything to investigate, said Officer Tobin Brennan.

“The majority of these scams are out-of-country, so there’s not a lot to do at the law enforcement level, at least for local law enforcement,” Brennan said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a website where victims of fraud or scams can register what happened to them, and Brennan said the police department directs people there when they call in about the incidents.

Calls about fraud and scams are pretty common for the Soldotna Police Department, Brennan said. On Thursday alone, the department got two calls in relation to a different IRS scam, and one call in regard to the Publishers Clearing House scam. Because the police deal with so many calls about the same scams, they create a case number only for the first call, and keep track of how many calls about the same scam come in thereafter, Brennan said.

While on the phone with the scam caller, Haberman said he kept asking if she and Bunch were at the bank to transfer the money. Some general tips to protect against scams are to never send money before a prize has been collected and to never divulge personal information, such as a social security number, Brennan said. Another tip is to enter the suspicious phone number into an Internet search to see if it is related to other scams.

“Nine times out of 10, it’s going to come up because you can register scam phone numbers,” Brennan said. “It’s not foolproof, but it is a first step to know whether somebody is trying to scam you or not.”

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said his department has not received any recent calls in regard to the Publishers Clearing House scam.


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