Anchorage police are warning people not to fall victim to a phone scam in which residents are called by people claiming to be Alaska State Troopers to extort fraudulent "fines" from them.
Police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said officers have received four reports of the scam this week, involving significant losses by the victims.
"In one of these, there were $987 taken," Castro said. "There was another case where they were scammed out of $4,700."
Castro emphasized that people should not pay the scammers and instead immediately report them to police, noting that law enforcement officers don't collect fines or threaten to imprison people by phone.
While it wasn't clear how the victims were being targeted, Castro said the availability of online state court records and people's addresses lets the scammers quote some personal details about their targets.
"These things are basically just playing off fear tactics -- in some ways that kind of puts people in fear, not realizing that there are these ways out there to get this information," Castro said.
Specific details about the scammers appears to have been consistent across the calls to date, based on the victims' accounts.
"In three of the cases the suspects are pretending to be Trooper Mark Holloway," Castro said. "There is no Trooper Mark Holloway."
During the calls, the scammer demands money, threatening to have a warrant issued if the caller doesn't purchase a debit card to pay off alleged fines they owe. Castro said the calls have also originated from a specific phone number: 1-866-946-9990.
"When people call that back they press some kind of prompt and that takes them back to the scammer, and they're passing on a number on the backs of the cards," Castro said.
Castro said phone scams typically hit around the holidays, including a previous version in which scammers tried a similar racket while impersonating Anchorage police.
"We went through this last year, when they were pretending to be officers and even the chief," Castro said. "In some of the cases we've seen in the past they've been only asking for a few hundred dollars."
In a particularly malicious twist, Castro said this year's scammers have even been telling victims to visit the local Department of Public Safety office, to sign paperwork confirming they've paid their fines.
"In two of the cases, when they actually went to the troopers' place they realized they had been scammed," Castro said.
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said the reports they've received of people getting scammed have all originated in Anchorage.
"They were saying they would send deputies to somebody's work -- we don't have deputies," Peters said.
According to Peters, a warrant might be issued if a driver doesn't send back a response card to a mailed notification of a speeding charge. She urged anyone who believes they may have a warrant to visit the Department of Public Safety online for instructions on how to clear it.
If (people) go to our warrant website, they can find out how to take care of that," Peters said. "That way you don't get taken advantage of by opportunistic scammers."
Anyone who has been contacted by the scammers or has information about them should call Anchorage police at 907-786-8900.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said a warrant could be issued by troopers. A warrant is issued by a judge.