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Attorney General Recognizes Consumer Protection Week

Anchorage, Alaska - The Alaska Attorney General's Office will join with federal, state and local government agencies and national organizations to celebrate the 13th annual National Consumer Protection Week, beginning Sunday. 

Participating governments and groups nationwide share tips and information to help consumers protect their privacy, manage money and debt, and avoid identity theft, frauds and scams. 

This year, the focus of the Consumer Protection Unit in the Alaska Department of Law is on alerting Alaskans about the risks of wiring money.  While money transfers through companies such as Moneygram and Western Union are convenient, there are known risks.

"Wiring money is like sending cash; once it's gone, you can't get it back," said Ed Sniffen, assistant attorney general. "That's why so many scammers insist on money transfers. Typically, you can't reverse a transfer or trace the money."

Some recent scam reports from Alaskans include: 

·         A homeowner in South Anchorage had her real estate listing "hijacked."  Instead of getting offers from potential buyers, she learned that an out-of-state scammer was advertising the house for rent.  The scammer almost lured another Anchorage resident into wiring thousands of dollars for rent and a security deposit.

·         A Wasilla resident had a relative who'd been successful in supplementing his income as a "mystery shopper."  The Wasilla man was delighted when he received an offer to be a mystery shopper at a local big box store.  His assignment involved checking up on the store's procedures for handling money orders.  The company sent him money orders to cash at the store, with instructions to wire the proceeds back to the company.  The money orders turned out to be as fake as the company that "hired" him. 

·         A Palmer resident was excited to see a classified for a purebred English bulldog puppy.  She talked to the breeder after reviewing his website, which had seemed legitimate.  The breeder told her that because of problems he'd had with other buyers, he required full payment before he'd ship the puppy.  She wired off $500 but no puppy was sent and she could no longer contact the seller.  

"These scams boil down to the same thing: someone you don't know wants you to wire money," Sniffen said. "But if you do, you'll soon find out there is no apartment or product, the girlfriend or boyfriend isn't really going to fly to the United States, your friend or family member on vacation in Europe doesn't really need money for bail, that check you deposited was a fake, and  your money is long gone."

More information is available at www.ncpw.gov and www.law.alaska.gov/consumer/ or by calling (907) 269-5200 (or, toll free, 888-576-2529 or email consumer@alaska.gov).

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