A phone screen displays a message warning of a potential spam call. Alaska Department of Public Safety warns of a new scam involving text messages sent to the family members of missing people. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A phone screen displays a message warning of a potential spam call. Alaska Department of Public Safety warns of a new scam involving text messages sent to the family members of missing people. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Department of Public Safety warns of scam targeting families of missing people

Scammers trawl social media for info, according to the department.

  • Tuesday, March 2, 2021 8:02pm
  • News

A new scam is targeting families of missing people, and scammers have already reached out to Alaskans, according to Alaska Department of Public Safety.

Internet trolls are searching social media posts related to missing people and taking advantage of the information they find to send text messages to the family members of missing people, the Department of Public Safety said in a news release. During the scam, scammers claim they have kidnapped the missing person, who has become sick, according to the department. Scammers then demand a ransom for the missing person’s safe return.

The scammer warns people to not contact the police and attempts to trick people into sending money via PayPal or a similar application, according to the department.

“This scam is particularly disturbing and abhorrent as distraught families are already navigating the uncertainty and grief associated with their loved one’s disappearance,” stated Col. Bryan Barlow, director of the Alaska State Troopers, in the release. “Not only will the family potentially fall for the scam and lose money, the scam itself can exponentially intensify the grief and anxiety they are already feeling. We must raise public awareness for these despicable scams for the well-being of all Alaskans.”

Department of Public Safety advises people who receive such a message not to respond to the message. Instead, they are advised to report the scam to akcic@alaska.gov and also notify the agency that has case responsibility for the missing person case.

• Contact the Juneau Empire newsroom at (907)308-4895.

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