Fraud & Scams

Fraud and scams are created to obtain money or property from an individual through deceptive statements or acts. There are many types of fraud and scams. The following are descriptions of some of the more common types and what you can do to keep yourself safe.

Recognize fraud & scams

Financial fraud is a crime, and it could cost you money. The best way to stop this crime is through awareness and prevention. Remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Almost all fraud is based on tricking you into giving away something of real value in exchange for something of presumed value. By the time you realize the received item or service is fake, it's too late.

Some signs to look for when trying to identify fraudulent activity:

  • Messages containing poor grammar and spelling
  • Messages not signed with an individual's name
  • A sense of urgency to purchase, even if details or a photo of the item have not been provided
  • A buyer wishes to purchase something from you on behalf of a "client"
  • A buyer wants a shipping agent to pick up a purchased item and asks for your home address
  • You received a payment sent as a cashier's check or money order, the amount is more than the listed price, and you are asked to wire the remainder back
  • Use of a TTY device to "confirm" a purchase - this is sometimes done to disguise the criminal's voice

Fraud & scam examples

IRS scams

IRS scams have been targeting taxpayers and recent immigrants throughout the country. In a common version of this scam, a caller posing as an IRS employee informs the victim that they owe money to the IRS and must send a wire transfer or pre-loaded debit card immediately. If the victim refuses or does not cooperate, the caller may threaten deportation, an IRS audit, or suspension of a driver’s or business license. In some cases, the caller may demand personal information such as Social Security Numbers or account information that could be used for identity theft.

Keep in mind that the IRS generally initiates contact with taxpayers by mail, and never by email or social media.

For more information, or to find out how to report criminals who are posing as IRS employees, please visit: IRS Warns of Pervasive Telephone Scam

Check fraud

In common check fraud scams, you receive a check and are asked to deposit it into your account. The provider of the check then asks you to return some or all of the money. When you discover that the check is fake, your hard earned money is long gone.

There are many versions of check fraud scams, including:

  • Lottery scams
  • Aid to someone in a foreign country
  • Quick credit scams

Learn more in the Check fraud infosheet, or at, a site created by National Consumers League (NCL).

Classified advertising scams

People can be whoever they want to be on the phone or Internet. Since many classified ad transactions and most online auction sales happen without face-to-face contact, you need to be especially careful. Some "buyers" might try to use the anonymous nature of these sales to try and rip you off.

Watch for all the fraud warning signs listed above. If you receive a check from a "buyer" asking you to wire or MoneyGram any amount back, do not deposit it into your account. Bring any suspicious check to an Alaska USA branch and inform a member service representative of your concerns.

Lottery scams

A lottery is typically easy to enter and features a large payout to a lucky winner. Fraudsters use this lure of easy money to trick people.

In one form of lottery scam, you are informed you won a lottery you never entered. You are asked to wire money or send a check to cover a fee, tax, or expense related to your "prize," which never materializes.

Another lottery scam takes the form of telephone calls, direct mailings, or email messages that offer the chance to enter a high-stakes lottery. The prize money might be described as as tax free, great odds, or one lump sum. There is often a sense of urgency to not miss out on this deal. It all sounds too good to be true and it is.

Lottery scams can appear to be from other states or even foreign countries. Foreign lottery solicitations are illegal and there are no secret systems to winning. The FTC advises people to ignore all mail and phone solicitations for foreign lotteries.

Imposter schemes

Imposter schemes involve fraudsters posing as a trustworthy source – such as a vendor, company executive, or government official – to get you to send them money, allowing you to think it’s going to a legitimate recipient.

Fraudsters can pose as a vendor and request you change the payment instructions you have on file for them. They can also pretend to be an executive of your company, requesting an employee to confidentially make a payment outside normal procedure. Scammers can even appear as government officials, claiming you owe debt.

These schemes can be thwarted by educating staff and following policy. All requests to change vendor payment information should be confirmed by a known contact on file and through a different communication channel than the one received. Set up approval methods so all payments must be approved by an additional manager or executive.

Protect yourself

If you think someone might be trying to rip you off, the first thing to do is STOP and think. Don't rush into any "deal" you might regret later.

  • Know who you're dealing with - Ask for a phone number and say you will call the person back. This gives you a chance to check them out. Always check the credentials of an organization you do not know personally. Contact your local Better Business Bureau to find out if the company you're dealing with is legitimate.
  • Be cautious - Don't respond to any offers that look suspicious.
  • Take your time - Legitimate companies won't rush you to send or wire money. Ask yourself: Is the potential loss of your hard-earned money worth the "deal" that's being offered?
  • Check that check - Never accept a check from a person or business you do not know without verifying the check is real and the funds are available. An Alaska USA member service representative can help you determine if the check is valid.
  • Keep your accounts safe - Never wire money to someone you don't know, and never use your personal account for making "business" transactions. Legitimate businesses will not ask you to do this.
  • Keep track - Use UltraBranch® so you don't have to wait for your monthly statement to track your account. You should also review your credit report at least once a year to check for unusual activity.

Fraud is costly and embarrassing. Avoid being a victim by being smart, skeptical, and aware!

If you think you're a victim

If you think you have accepted a counterfeit check or lost money in a fraudulent deal, you should report your concerns to an Alaska USA member service representative and to your local FBI office. Provide as much information as possible about the perpetrators, including print-outs of email and details of phone conversations.

Alaska USA can assist by providing you with resources for reporting a financial crime:

While members are responsible for their account transactions, including the deposit of potentially counterfeit checks, Alaska USA has trained fraud specialists on staff to assist if the need arises. Promptly informing a member service representative is the first step in protecting your account.